Coronavirus: SIA, SilkAir cancel more than 700 flights between February and May due to weak demand

Singapore Airlines said it will continue to monitor the situation and make the necessary adjustments as the situation develops. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - More than 700 Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights between Singapore and countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany and the United States between February and May have been cancelled due to weak demand amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) and SilkAir announced the cancellations on Tuesday (Feb 18) on their Facebook pages and SIA's website.

They said affected customers will be notified and re-accommodated onto other flights.

The earliest flights affected are on next Monday, and the latest are on May 31.

Both Singapore Airlines and SilkAir apologised for the inconvenience.

Those with flights booked between this period should check SIA's website or its Facebook page for further details.

SIA said those who have booked their tickets through a travel agency should contact that agent for assistance, while those who booked directly with SIA can contact the airline's reservations team on 6223-8888.

Air travel has been disrupted by the outbreak of the disease caused by the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, that originated from China's Wuhan city, although the disruptions were mostly limited to routes between Singapore and China.

SIA, SilkAir and Scoot have suspended flights to mainland China due to weak demand and China's decision to lock down several cities.

SIA said it will continue to monitor the situation and make the necessary adjustments as the situation develops.

Mr Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst and founder of Sobie Aviation, told The Straits Times that the number of cuts are relatively small given how much demand has fallen.

"The situation is that people are not travelling, and it's not just to China or Hong Kong, but everywhere. In Singapore, a lot of corporations are not sending their employees away for business and a lot of conventions and conferences have been affected," he said.

He pointed out that many of the cuts are not for the near-term but in May, which is usually an off-peak season for travellers because it is between the Easter and summer holidays.

He said: "These flights would have likely experienced low demand without the crisis and now the virus is further impacting their performance."

Looking ahead, Mr Sobie expects more non-China cuts from other Asian airlines.

"Every airline reacts differently to these situations...but we can expect other airlines to cut flights in the next few days," he said.

Mr Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at Endau Analytics, said that the decision to slash the affected flights indicates that SIA is anticipating the situation to worsen due to the coronavirus.

"This will impact earnings for the last quarter of its fiscal year but, buoyed by a strong balance sheet, SIA is one of the few airlines globally to be able to go through this relatively unscathed, in my opinion," he said. "Others won't be so lucky to even survive it."

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