Hundreds of flights to and from the UK will be cancelled this month as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
British Airways said 216 flights will be cancelled between March 16 and 28. They are London departures to destinations in Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland, as well as one daily service to New York.
The carrier had already suspended flights from Heathrow to Shanghai and Beijing until April 17, and suspended one of its two daily flights to Hong Kong until March 31.
It is offering flexible rebookings within certain dates to customers travelling to Hong Kong or northern Italy. Yesterday it announced it will waive change fees for flights across its network booked between now and Monday March 16.
Those with flights booked should check the latest information with the airline.
Virgin Atlantic has also suspended its Heathrow-Shanghai route until March 28, and will run nine fewer services to Hong Kong this month.
Low-cost carrier Easyjet will reduce capacity this month, though has not specified the overall number of flights that will be affected.
The airline told Business Traveller:
“We can confirm that we have taken the decision to cancel a number of flights mainly to and from Italy following a slowing in demand as a result of concerns over Covid-19.
“The cancellations are for some flights between March 13 and March 31, 2020, most of which have multiple daily frequencies.
“Customers are being contacted and moved onto flights operating on the same day or alternatively have been offered a full refund. Standard terms and conditions apply on all flights which are unaffected as they will be operating as normal.”
The airline has paused recruitment and is offering staff unpaid leave.
Ryanair and Wizz Air, both low-cost carriers with UK subsidiaries, will also be reducing capacity this month.
Ryanair will cut up to 25 per cent of flights into and out of Italy from March 17 to April 8, the BBC reports.
The airline did not say how many flights would be affected.
CEO Michael O’Leary said: “Our focus at this time is on minimising any risk to our people and our passengers.
“While we are heavily booked over the next two weeks, there has been a notable drop in forward bookings towards the end of March, into early April.
“It makes sense to selectively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Wizz Air, which is headquartered in Budapest, has reduced its London Luton-Tel Aviv service from six to five weekly flights from March 15 to April 2.
It will also significantly reduce capacity on Northern Italy routes between March 11 and April 2. We have contact the carrier for comment and further details.
Regional airline Flybe, which is currently embroiled in financial difficulties, flies to European destinations including Milan and Verona.
It has not yet suspended routes or cancelled flights, but advised passengers to continue to check the latest travel information.
A spokesperson said: “All our flights are currently operating however as things unfold and should the situation change, we’ll do everything we can to contact and help any customers whose flights may be affected.
“Customers are asked to please regularly check our Travel Advice at flybe.com for any latest updates.”
The coronavirus outbreak is impacting airlines around the world. Read our latest updates here.
IATA has estimated it may cost the airline industry $30 billion.
The industry body yesterday called for aviation regulators to immediately suspend rules governing the use of airport slots, which currently mean airlines must operate at least 80 per cent of their allocated slots or lose their right to the slot for the next equivalent season.
Hotels are also taking a hit, with Asia Pacific hotels seeing a dramatic drop in occupancy.
Many are now offering refunds for cancellations and extensions on membership tier status programmes.
You can also read our guide to insurance claims for cancelled trips below, and share your experiences in comments.