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Coronavirus: Expert Warns More Flights Could Be Cancelled

An industry analyst is predicting more international flights will be cancelled if the coronavirus and consumer uncertainty it has created is not contained.

Air New Zealand, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines, Air China, Hainan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have all reduced or stopped flights to China.

Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir announced through its website yesterday a temporary reduction flights across their global network, starting 24 February through to May, due to "weak demand" as a result of the outbreak.

The carrier will reduce services to Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Paris, Seoul and Sydney.

Aviation analyst at Forsyth Barr, Andy Bowley, told Morning Report that a mix of government travel restrictions and the public's reluctance to travel in the current health climate caused by the coronavirus outbreak had impacted on global travel, particularly as many transit hubs where Asian-based.

"I hear it in the context of the business environment, where airlines make a fair bit of money from in light of the high yields that generate from customers at the front of cabin and there's a distinct lack of a desire to travel to China or to Hong Kong, or other Asia destinations currently, because of the uncertainty prevailing from a health point of view," he said.

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"The New Zealand government has travel restrictions in place for all foreign nationals that travel from or are transiting mainland China currently. So there is a distinct lack of demand as a result of that, but also the consumer response to any outbreaks, such as what we have currently, in terms of the uncertainty it creates one, two, three months out."

Bowley said airlines were generally more responsive to emergencies like coronavirus and would take steps to support their cost base and profits, but projected performance outlooks would be affected.

"The results that Air New Zealand will report next week and Auckland Airport today won't be impacted by this because those results are only up until the end of December, but in their outlook and commentary there will be an outlook of uncertainty."

There have been over 75,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus world-wide, with 2014 reported deaths resulting from the illness, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January.

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