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25 February, 2020 00:00 00 AM
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Coronavirus outbreak sends aviation sector into a tailspin

STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
Coronavirus outbreak sends aviation sector into a tailspin

The coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on the aviation industry, as airlines operating from Bangladesh are witnessing a significant fall in passenger numbers.

 Local airlines as well as foreign airlines running their operations here have taken a hit as the virus originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan spreads across the globe.

US-Bangla Airlines is the most affected as it is the only local airline that operates a flight to mainland China.

Kamrul Islam, general manager (media and communications) of US-Bangla Airlines, told The Independent that they had reduced the number of flights to Guangzhou because of coronavirus fears.

“Previously, we used to operate five flights a week to Guangzhou, but now we are operating only three flights,” he said.

The number of passengers taking these flights has also come down. The seats on outbound flights to Guangzhou are filled only 30–35 per cent, whereas previously the occupancy rate was at least 65 per cent. At the same time, the seats on incoming flights to Dhaka are 60 per cent filled, down from 90–95 per cent before the coronavirus outbreak.

“As the lone Bangladeshi carrier operating in a Chinese city, we are still conducting three flights a week, even though business-wise they are not viable for us. We are doing this as lots of stranded Bangladeshis in China are returning on our flights,” Kamrul said.

The plan of state-owned carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines to expand its own flight network to Guangzhou has hit a snag. The carrier is finding it financially unviable to operate the flight as outbound traffic to China has reduced drastically.

Tahera Khandakar, general manager (public relations) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said the operator had cancelled its plan to expand the flight network to Guangzhou. “Because of the coronavirus outbreak, we no longer find it feasible to expand our network in China,” she added.

Tahera also said that Biman had begun to feel the pinch of a global slowdown as the fall in export–import growth had hit its cargo business, with revenue from goods transportation falling by 32 per cent in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

“The national carrier will have to bear more costs at the end of this year if the impact of the coronavirus is felt for a prolonged period,” she said.

International carriers operating in Bangladesh are feeling the pinch too.

Speaking with The Independent, Ehsanul Kabir, manager (reservation) of Cathay Pacific Airways, admitted that they too were affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Our passenger load has reduced by 20 per cent. We also cancelled three flights last month because of the coronavirus threat. People are getting scared to travel to Hong Kong, which is not far away from mainland China,” he said.

Singapore Airlines, which grew at over 10 per cent last year in the Bangladeshi market despite a global slowdown, also reduced its flights in China.

“We have flights to around 26 destinations in China. Some flights were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Rifat Kader, head of sales and marketing at Singapore Airlines.

“However, there has not been much impact on other routes yet,” he added.

The Global body International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed estimates that carriers in the Asia-Pacific could incur a revenue loss of USD 27.8 billion, while global carriers would lose USD 29.3 billion in 2020 as an impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The impact shows a potential 13 per cent full-year loss in passenger demand for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region.

 “Considering that growth for the region’s airlines was forecast to be 4.8 per cent, the net impact will be a contraction of 8.2 per cent compared to the 2019 demand levels. In this scenario, this would translate into a USD 27.8 billion revenue loss in 2020 for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region—the bulk of which would be borne by carriers registered in China, with USD 12.8 billion lost in the China domestic market alone,” the IATA said in a statement.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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