Impact of Coronavirus on Air Travel

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  • MarcusGB

    Hi All.
    I thought a more specific topic would assist us all, to pool our Airline / Travel information from our experiences, in different parts of The World.
    Please share your experiences or awareness of anything others may find useful.

    I am currently in Australia, so from here the perspective is different to Europe.
    Having flown out via Kuala Lumpur, it was clear at the end of January 20, that many Chinese travellers had not been flying, and many cancellations in KL were being made at all hotels. We were staying at The Mandarin Oriental, and at the entrance everyone was being asked to alcogel their hands to enter.
    The streets and Malls were very quiet to say the least.

    Arriving at Sydney, the auto immigration machines where you obtain a ticket after scanning in yr passport, and either get cleared or not to use the E-gates, had specific questions added about recent visits to China.
    Further, everyone was being asked this with an extra staff immigration team as you entered the baggage areas.

    Australia currently has a ban on those who have travelled out of China, and Government has extended by one week…

    Repatriation flights for Australian citizens have returned several hundred people, who are isolated either on Christmas Island, or a former mining camp in Darwin.
    Many flights to and from China have been cancelled.
    Virgin Australia have stated that combined with the civil unrest, they are withdrawing their flights to Hong Kong permanently. It was “No longer economically viable”.
    Many flights to Hong Kong have been cancelled.

    Here in Sydney and other cities, tourism is down considerably. Clearly less tourists around Sydney than normal at this time of year. It is reported by Government, 16% of tourists are from China, over 1.2 Million per year.

    (This is also as a result of the Bush fires, and now severe flooding, rain and storms)

    But talking to friends, colleagues, and generally to people in stores etc, all say it is exceptionally quiet. Having lived here and as a regular visitor, it feels exceptionally quiet, with only locals on ferries and at cafes, restaurants etc.
    Equally, Australians are not travelling up to South East Asia as normal, for holidays or Business.
    Impact on various businesses depending on China components, imports, being delayed or cancelled for now.

    The wearing of face masks in public, offer little Clinical protection, especially if walking around with the same one on all day! Even Medical grade face masks, have a limited effect and are usually worn for a maximum period of an hour before changing. with very few people apart from the Chinese community appearing to use them here in Sydney.
    They are all sold out here.

    There is a clear impact on Air travel, cancellations, bookings not being made ahead, the same with hotels, and with all associated visitor businesses, restaurants stating as much as a 70% drop in customers, as reported on ABC news this evening.
    People are not booking cruise ship travel, and extra cautions are being made for those ships docking in Sydney.
    Many Australians are on the cruise ship in Japan, that seems to be have a high probability for being affected, due to high density of people in a small space.

    Not many cases confirmed in Australia, but i observe that The Government are well prepared and also acting very responsibly. The links are very strong in terms of Business and travel between Asia and Australia, more so than Europe, so link into the economy here.
    Government reports that combined with the Bush fires and weather events since Sept 19, there will be a prolonged impact on the overall GDP of the country, even though the fires have currently been put out due to days of torrential rains.

    I hope this gives an “on the ground” insight into the impact here in Australia, and it would be interesting to hear other BT forum members experience around The World, or awareness of impact on travel you find, in relation to your areas and travels.
    It clearly is affecting Air travel in and out of China, and also adding to the difficulties of Hong Kong visitors, and the Airlines based there, especially in Australia.
    Again i emphasise, this is on top of the impact of the bush fires, and extreme weather here down in Australia.

    (The Australians are very aware and grateful for all the efforts of the Brits, for donating, other activities, and gestures of time making pouches for the injured Marsupials, with over 1.2 Billion animals killed by the fires)

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    We flew to Sydney from London via Singapore last week and were asked at passport control if we had been to China recently. However we did go to a manned desk rather than attempt to use the e-gates. Certainly there was less queing than usual.I can’t say I have seen anyone outside of the airport here wearing face masks. Some parts of Sydney are still very busy, but the locals are still going to the beaches !

    At Changi I would say about half of the staff at our gate were wearing masks, but none of the staff in the couple of shops we went to were wearing masks.


    Living and working in Asia as many on this forum I can say there has been a huge impact on air travel, airports and indeed getting around. I was in Singapore all last week on business, the place has gone mad with supermarkets running out of basics as people panic buy (dont ask me why this is typically Singaporean), I was temp checked in every establishment I went to and almost everyone is wearing masks when the prudent health advise is not to wear unless you are unwell!

    When I flew into Changi from BKK the airport was deserted (Wed 9pm) when the place is normally buzzing with night flights to all over the world, it was eerie and when I left to Phuket Friday afternoon normally the busiest time the airport was dead very strange!

    Here in Phuket life goes on without concern, I arrived into Phuket Friday afternoon normally the airport is buzzing but straight through immigration and in the car within 5 mins ( yes please) so if you are travelling the benefits are that planes are empty, airports are empty and getting around is easy, I dont wear a mask my husband is a highly trained ICU nurse and he says that wearing a mask is a waste of time for those unaffected and should only be worn if you are sick, this seems to tally with what other professionals are saying but try telling that to the 1000’s wearing the masks out and about!

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    This might be useful to those of you travelling in the Far East :

    6 users thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley

    Further report on the effect in Hong Kong

    Coronavirus: most Hong Kong hotels record single-digit occupancy as industry faces ‘life or death’ struggle to survive
    Number of tourists arriving drops to daily average of 3,000 in mid-February – from 200,000 in same month last year

    Occupancy rates drop below level of Sars in 2003

    By the way – someone keeps reporting this topic as being Inappropriate. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see why – so if whoever it is who keeps reporting it could let me know, either here or by email, I will then be wiser!

    thank you


    5 users thanked author for this post.


    Hi Tom
    Looking forward to your report on how you found visiting this fantastic city during what must be it’s darkest days since possibly WW2.
    Personal insight is always more revealing that sanitized reporting : )

    I’m being selfish, as am due to travel next month , and in discussion with my pals whether or not to travel.
    My CX pal says no one out and about in either Wan Chai or LKF , and there’s a general air of despondency. Described it as Grim !!

    Our current thinking is to wait till March and see if the cases are stabilised and in fact reducing, with hopefully the schools opening up as a signal that things are improving?

    I’d also love to hear from the resident HK’ers as well.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley

    I would love to be able to say ‘visit’, but unfortunately last week it was clear that no one was conducting meetings and the few that were scheduled were cancelled. Those in Hong Kong will be better placed to say how it is this week and will be next week, but with the amount of flights being cancelled it will take along time for a recovery.

    Many restaurants and fast food shops are either closed or empty.

    The Hong Kong Arts Festival was cancelled, the HK 7s postponed etc…

    Hotels are running at around 5% occupancy and people are being asked to take unpaid leave.

    Many workers are being laid off completely, firstly in businesses which rely on tourism.

    Schools look likely to be closed until mid-March.

    More generally, and so far as advising whether you should go or not – also consider about when you come home from the trip.

    Despite being fit and well, since returning I have been asked to stay away from several gatherings of friends / acquaintances because I might be unknowingly carrying the virus. This, despite continuing to commute to work each day.

    It’s easy to dismiss this as hysteria, but I suppose tomorrow I might feel a little under the weather, have what I consider a cold for a few days, and then read later how an unknown person has spread the disease to…. [insert gatherings I would have attended].

    AT the moment people seem to be hoping warm weather will slow down the spread of the virus, but it’s still only February !

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    This is a useful summary of material relating to the impact of Coronavirus on travel


    There are some early indications that the situation is stabalising in HK in that the 1 or 2 new cases each day for the last few days have been related to existing cases (helpers -husbands-wives-close relatives etc)
    Early days but we are hopeful as to be frank it is becoming rather depressing here.
    Our small HK team took a vote and we decided to revert to working from the office and this has lifted spirits a little although as Tom mentions above it is extremely difficult to organise face to face meetings


    Not the impact of Covid-19 on Air travel, but on businesses in Hubei, and travel in Hubei, so apologies to Marcus

    I work very closely with a company in Jingzhou, Hubei, and we have been forced to remain closed. A few hours ago we were told that our opening date is now 10 March, a full month after we should have returned from CNY. We are not allowed to even enter the factory so, although our engineers and accounts people could, and would love to, work from home, they are not allowed to collect computers. Because we cannot enter the building we cannot get our internet banking key to make payments, or check what is being received. Our employees, mainly local, or already back from CNY before the lock-down, are either stuck at home or in their dormitory, and allowed out for maximum 3 hours once every 3 days, and only to buy medication and food.

    When I talked with a colleague yesterday I said that it was good news that the highways in Hubei had now re-opened he said: Yes, but you can only use them to transit the province, you cannot drive in to towns in lock-down.

    Like Tom, I was cold shouldered by friends when they heard that I had been in Wuhan 2 weeks earlier. I have had no effects and been fine until this week when I have developed flu. However, last week I was at a major trade show in Amsterdam where 15,000 people mingled daily, then I was confined in a plane from AMS to LIS.

    On a Business travel note, the flight was operated by LEVEL, and also code shared with Vueling. It was very good. I had paid a little extra for extra leg room in row 3, and seats were comfortable. A far cry from Vueling, and even BA. During that flight I began to wonder if IAG strategy is to ultimately replace the much disliked Vueling with a better product, LEVEL.

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    I was due to travel through ICN/BKK/MNL and back to the UK last week, and decided to postpone. On balance it seemed to me that any risk was increased by sitting on a plane for hours, waiting in security and Immigration queues, and randomly touching items (cutlery in airport lounges, my passport and/or boarding pass after it had been examined, etc).

    I think however that with enough precautions (repeated hand-washing, staying a yard or so away from others, not shaking others’ hands or rubbing my eyes or nose, etc) one might go now, on the basis that risk cannot be eliminated completely from daily life. Flu and other viruses may be all around us; to me the greatest concern would be contracting the virus and then unknowingly passing it on to others. In the comfort of one’s own home, and in the anonymity of many shopping transactions nowadays, one is unlikely to do this.

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    Would appear BA has extended their embargo on flights to Mainland China until at least April 17th


    Some anecdotes from my week of travel within Asia, I flew to KL on Tuesday from Phuket on MH there were 35 souls on board the airport was empty except for lots and lots of Russians, clearly CV better than the cold of Moscow!

    Arrival into KUL easy peasy no one at immigration straight onto the train and into Sentral less than an hour after landing ( beautiful) KL is actually booming all the well known night life bars and restaurants doing great business, no restrictions going into offices unlike my experience last week in Singapore, friends who work for US companies have been banned from flying to Singapore which is an interesting development this week…

    And just to end my husbands parents went to a well known restaurant in Singapore during the week and they were literally the only people in the place. I guess it depends where you are especially in Asia


    Can I just say this thread is very useful for me. 2 weeks from now I am going to Hong Kong for a week then to Seoul for a while. Thanks to MarcusGB for starting the thread, and to everyone who has posted, it’s much appreciated.

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