Coronavirus update: Singapore Airlines to cut flights as coronavirus epidemic hits demand

Singapore Airlines Ltd will temporarily cut flights across its global network in the three months to May, it said on February 18, as a coronavirus epidemic hits demand for services to the Asian city state, as well as through the key transit hub.

Key affected destinations include Frankfurt, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Paris, Seoul, Sydney and Tokyo, the airline said on its website.

“Singapore Airlines and SilkAir will temporarily reduce services across our network due to weak demand as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak,” the carrier said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and make further adjustments as necessary.”

It declined to say what percentage of capacity it had cut in response to a query from Reuters, citing commercial sensitivity.

The cuts follow major reductions already announced in services to mainland China and Hong Kong. In the Dec. quarter, flights to mainland China made up 11% of capacity for the airline, and more than that for budget arm Scoot.

“It’s not a surprise to see some cuts in flights, given the weak forward bookings that can be expected from the current environment,” DBS analyst Paul Yong said.

Demand on flights to South Korea and Japan had been hit hardest after China, Yong quoted Singapore Airlines’ management team as having told analysts at a results briefing on February 17.

Those were the areas of the biggest cutbacks in February 18’s announcement.

Singapore’s tally of 77 cases of the virus is one of the highest outside mainland China, where more than 1,800 people have been killed in the epidemic.

Last week, the Asian tourism and travel hub said it expected visitor numbers to drop by a quarter or more this year, hit by the virus outbreak.

Besides visitors to the city-state, Singapore Airlines also relies heavily on transit traffic. Premium travel has suffered after many business events were cancelled across Asia because of the virus.

Hong Kong-based rival Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd has said it is cutting 40% of capacity across its network, up from 30% earlier, due to weak demand.