No effect of virus scare on flights to Far East

DUBAI - The operations of Cathay Pacific for the Dubai-Hong Kong route and Singapore Airlines for the Dubai-Singapore route have remained unaffected despite the scare over the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), according to official sources from the two airlines.

By Ramona Ruiz

Published: Fri 4 Apr 2003, 12:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 9:55 PM

Latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures estimate that over 2,000 people have been affected by Sars, and more than 70 have died. The WHO yesterday began recommending that persons travelling to Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, China consider postponing all but essential travel. This updated travel advice, which was posted on WHO's web site, was intended to limit the spread of Sars by reducing travel to high risk areas.

The WHO said that this is a temporary recommendation, which will be re-assessed regularly as the epidemic evolves. It does not apply to passengers simply transiting through airports in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or Guangdong Province, China.

Meanwhile, David Heymann, head of infectious disease at the WHO, said that the Sars outbreak in Singapore, Vietnam and Canada, sparked off by travellers from Hong Kong, has now largely been controlled.

A source from Cathay Pacific in Dubai, stressed that the airline has not witnessed a drop in its sales. "Definitely, people are concerned about flying to China, but I think this is a normal phenomenon because of the current situation. We monitor the reservations and sales on a regular basis. We have three different segments from Dubai which include Mumbai, Hong Kong and Bangkok and all flights are full or sufficiently occupied," he said.

He added that the airline also carried several passengers to the Philippines and Indonesia, and that its Mumbai route is not affected despite the war in Iraq.

Samuel Abraham, District Sales Manager, Marketing Development at Singapore Airlines, told Khaleej Times that daily flights between Dubai and Singapore have so far been unchanged despite the virus outbreak. He added that the airline continues to monitor the situation and make the necessary adjustments to capacity to match the demand.

However, the airline is planning service reductions in the coming weeks in response to softening demand due to the war in Iraq. Combined with those announced in March, this increases the number of cuts to 125 services per week, or 13.6 per cent of capacity in terms of Available Seat Kilometres.

The latest cuts include the suspension of all services to Kaohsiung from April 15, and to Hiroshima from April 9 to May 31. There will be fewer weekly frequencies to destinations in all regions, particularly in Asia, where services to Hong Kong will be cut from 41 to 26 per week. Weekly services will also be reduced to Guangzhou (from seven to five), Hanoi (from six to four) and Taipei (from 20 to 16).

Other major cities affected include Los Angeles and New York in the United States, and Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Manchester in Europe. In addition, the Airline's launch of thrice-weekly services to Bangalore, originally planned for May 1, will be deferred until June 12.

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