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Taiwanese Airlines Cut Services Amid Virus Outbreak

StarLux Airlines’ first Airbus A321neo at Airbus’ facility. The airline has placed an order for the A330neo. (Photo: StarLux Airlines)

In light of confirmed coronavirus cases increasing sharply in the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan’s China Airlines and EVA Air are going to suspend scheduled flights to affected destinations.

China Airlines announced that flights to Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, Brisbane, Australia, Auckland and Vienna will be suspended for 20 days. Meanwhile, passengers can change their bookings by Apr. 15 without paying change fees, but the consumers must inform the carrier at least seven days before the original schedule.

In addition, EVA Air has reduced its frequencies to Los Angeles and Paris. According to the airline, U.S. and Canada passengers are allowed to change flights for free if the departure date is on or before April 15.

Taiwan’s new policy also puts a strain on the airlines. The government passed a new law saying students and teachers at New Taipei’s high schools are not being allowed to go overseas. The new travel restriction is valid until the end of June.

Earlier, China Airlines sent an internal letter to its employees describing the drastic decline of travel demand as an “avalanche”. Also, executives of the airline have taken a 10 percent salary cut.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) introduced a $140 million USD bailout package to ease the airline’s financial difficulties. The package may cover the airport’s landing fees and aeronautical services fee, but MOTC did not reveal when the policy will commence.

Meanwhile, in response to the drop in travel demand, foreign airlines such as Air France, KLM and Air New Zealand have suspended flights to Taiwan.

Taiwanese airlines have been facing a significant drop in general sales after the Lunar New Year holidays. China Airlines experienced the lowest monthly sales in nine years, recording $311 million USD in general sales, nearly down 25 percent from a year earlier.

EVA Air also posted its consolidated sales for February as $295 million USD, the lowest sales since November 2012. It dropped almost 35 percent compared with the same period last year. In the meantime, TigerAir, the budget carrier, has seen a 38 percent drop in February.

As a result of the virus outbreak, StarLux Airline, a brand new airline in Taiwan, will suspend operations between March 21 and April 30. The airline revealed the load factor of Penang, Malaysia was 20 percent before that route was suspended. StarLux currently owns a fleet of three aircraft, the fourth and fifth plane from Airbus are expected to be delivered in August and the end of 2020 respectively.

Pete Ainsley


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