- United Airlines said it would significantly reduce its capacity to Japan, Singapore, and South Korea because of the novel-coronavirus outbreak.
- Japan has over just a few days become the latest hot spot of the virus.
- Officials said this week that all schools would be closed for a month in an effort to contain the outbreak.
- The outbreak — and its perceived severity — puts Japan’s booming tourism industry and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo at risk.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
United Airlines said on Friday that it was significantly reducing its capacity to Asia as the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the region and the rest of the world.
As part of the reduction, the airline suspended several routes to Japan through April 24, reduced frequency on several other Japan routes, and assigned smaller planes to the routes than normal, reflecting plummeting demand to the country.
United also reduced the frequency of flights to Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, and extended its cancellation of all flights to mainland China and Hong Kong until April 30 — a week later than previously planned.
“We will stay in close contact with the CDC and other health organizations as we continue to evaluate our schedule,” a United spokesman said in an emailed statement.
The cancellations come as Japan has suddenly found itself as the latest major hot spot of the outbreak, with at least 933 cases reported as of Friday and 11 deaths. Critics have said officials have had a poor response to the looming outbreak. The infectious-diseases expert Kentaro Iwata also described the quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship as “completely inadequate.”
Earlier this week, Japanese officials announced that the country’s schools would close for a month in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Japanese officials are eager to contain the virus to accommodate the 2020 Summer Olympics, which Tokyo is slated to host in July.
An uncontained outbreak in Japan would risk hurting the country’s tourism industry, which saw the number of foreign tourists more than triple over the 2010s. About 31.8 million people visited the country in 2019.
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United operates flights to Tokyo and Osaka from Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Washington, DC, and Honolulu. The airline also operates a joint venture with All Nippon Airways, or ANA, the largest airline in Japan by revenue and total passengers.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced airlines to suspend routes to China and Hong Kong as customer demand has plummeted. Outbreaks in South Korea and now Japan have forced similar moves.
Airline stocks have fallen dramatically over the past week of trading, and the International Air Transport Association, the principal industry trade group, warned that it could be the worst year for airlines since the Great Recession.
The full details of United’s latest schedule cuts to Asia are below:
- LAX/IAH-NRT canceled March 8 to April 24.
- ORD-NRT canceled March 8 to March 27, then switches to ORD-HND on March 28.
- HND schedule not affected (daily SFO-HND and starting March 28 daily ORD, LAX, IAD, EWR).
- EWR-NRT reduction to five times weekly for April (from daily).
- HNL-NRT changed from 777-200 to 787-8 for April.
- SFO-KIX reduction to five times weekly in April (from daily).
- SFO-SIN reduction to one time daily from March 8 to April 24 (from two times daily).
- SFO-ICN reduction to three times weekly from March 8 to April 30 (from one time daily in March and two times daily in April).
- SFO-TPE changed from 777-300 to 787-9 for March and April.
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