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Coronavirus: Flight cancellations rising for travel to China

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NEW DELHI: Airlines operating flights between India and China are witnessing up to 30% cancellation as advisories against travel to the country due to coronavirus outbreak grow, say travel agents in India. Officials of foreign airlines say they are witnessing the same trend on flights from their home bases to China.

Because of their low fares, Chinese carriers had emerged as a favourite with budget Indian travellers to fly between India and the far east, Australia and west coast of America. “We are witnessing cancellations even from passengers who are supposed to transit through China,” said a leading travel agent who did not wish to be quoted.

Among Indian carriers, Air India has six flights a week on Delhi-Shanghai route. IndiGo has three daily flights to China. These two airlines have waived ticket cancellation/rebooking charges till February 24.

SpiceJet tweeted on Tuesday night: “In view of the #coronavirusoutbreak , SpiceJet is offering waiver of cancellation/change fee (fare difference if any will be applicable) for all flights to/from Hong Kong between January 24 and February 24, 2020.”

“AI Delhi-Shanghai return spot fare is about Rs 35,000 while same time last year it was Rs 39-40,000. Delhi-Beijing spot return fare on Cathay Pacific is Rs 37,000, against Rs 35,000 same time last year. While international fares on almost all routes are up this year, China is witnessing a fall due to cancellations and the flu scare,” said a leading travel conglomerate’s official.

Daniel D’souza, SOTC president and country head (leisure), said: “In light of the current scenario in China, we are providing alternative destination options to customers who have cancelled their travel to China. We are focused on the safety of our customers and are recommending alternate destinations such as Egypt, Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Japan. The busiest flight routes are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian with no major impact on airfares seen as yet. We will continue to monitor the situation. The security of our customers is of prime importance.”

A senior official of a leading southeast Asian airline said the reason, perhaps, for airfares for China flights not falling dramatically is that “Chinese carriers are busy handling the large number of cancellations.” “We are seeing huge impact of coronavirus it seems to be another SAARS in the making (in terms of impact on travel) if not bigger,” said this official.

Trails of Indochina, a leading luxury travel operator of Southeast Asia, sent a mail giving update of the situation in China to its Indian travel partners on Tuesday. “To try and stop the spread of the virus, China has locked down Wu Han and implemented travel restrictions in at least 10 cities in Hebei province where the virus originated. Due to the spread of coronavirus outbreak, there are many site closures which include most highlights of China such as Forbidden City in Beijing, Terracotta Warriors in Xian and Yu Garden in Shanghai, etc …. We believe there will be more and more sites closed in the coming days & weeks and we do not know when they will reopen. Therefore, for safety and due to site closures, we are advising against travel to China until further notice.”



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