Coronavirus flight cancellations top 200,000, plunging jet fuel prices

Coronavirus flight cancellations top 200,000, plunging jet fuel prices
Published: 3 March 2020 - 8 a.m.
By: Martin Menachery

Airlines have cancelled more than 200,000 flights as the coronavirus continues to spread.

More than 90,000 people have been sickened by the virus, which has killed at least 3,100 people, health officials said.

The global infections have prompted travel restrictions and a sharp drop in demand for trips to and within China.

Airlines around the world have halted service to the mainland and Hong Kong because of the virus.

In February alone, the number of flights that were scheduled to fly to, from and within China are down 80% from a year ago, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium.

From 23 January to 18 February, 99,254 scheduled flights did not fly, close to 90% of them domestic China trips, said Cirium.

The slumped demand is sending jet fuel prices down sharply.

Benchmark jet fuel prices in the US and Singapore are down 17% so far this year, according to data from S&P Global Platts.

“Pent-up demand” may help firm up prices in the second half of the year but “2020 is compromised as far as jet [fuel] demand is concerned,” S&P Global Platts energy analyst Claudio Galimberti told CNBC.

However, the coronovirus still represents a blight on airline profits.

Air travel demand globally is set to fall for the first time since 2009 because of the virus, which will cost airlines about $29bn in revenue, the International Air Transport Association said.

“The coronavirus outbreak has dampened the modest recovery in (domestic) demand seen in the second quarter with intakes falling over the last few weeks,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.

Air France-KLM, which also suspended China flights, said it expects coronavirus-related demand reductions to drive down results through April by up to $217mn.

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