China Southern Massively Cuts International Flights

China Southern Airlines is slashing flights to a wide range of destinations throughout February and March 2020. The service cutbacks are in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

China Southern has suspended and reduced services to a range of international destinations. Photo: Sergey Kustov via Wikimedia Commons.

China Southern is Asia’s largest airline and normally has over 2,000 flights a day to some 200 destinations.

Chinese airlines bear economic brunt of virus outbreak

Information published yesterday in Routesonline indicates China Southern Airlines is making significant cuts. Flights to some destinations are being suspended while flights to other destinations are being scaled back in frequency.

Chinese airlines that service Wuhan, China Southern Airlines being one of them, are bearing the brunt of plummeting customer demand as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of flights China Southern Airlines is either suspending or scaling back is extensive. They can be viewed in full at Routesonline. There are several service suspensions from Urumqi. The majority of these suspensions will impact on South and Central Asian destinations.

Suspensions and service reductions to many destinations

By way of example, China Southern has suspended its thriceweekly service between Urumqi and Bangkok between 12 February 2020 and 28 March 2020. The airline has suspended its four times a week service between Urumqi and Dubai between 2 February 2020 and 28 March 2020. The twiceweekly China Southern service between Urumqi and Baku is also suspended over these dates.

There are reductions in frequencies for services between Urumqi and Bishkek and Urumqi and Islamabad.

Services cutbacks will impact on destinations across Asia, North American, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Photo: Andrew Thomas via Wikimedia Commons.

But it is China Southern’s hub at Guangzhou that is going to feel the pinch from service suspensions and cutbacks. Throughout much of February and March 2020, flights from Guangzhou to Adelaide, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Male, Nairobi, Melbourne, and Perth have been suspended.

It should be noted that China Southern flies to some of these destinations more than once daily. Melbourne is an example. The airline may have canceled one series of flights to a destination but other flights to the same destination are still operating.

This is potentially confusing as it is really a service reduction, but China Southern isn’t listing them as so.

China Southern’s Guangzhou hub is bearing the brunt of these service suspensions and cutbacks. Photo: Unknown author via Pixabay,

Examples of service reductions throughout February and March include China Southern’s thricedaily service between Guangzhou and Sydney dropping to once a day. Flights between Shenzhen and Sydney are suspended.

Flights between Guangzhou and Dubai will drop to four times a week by mid-February. Flights between Guangzhou and New York will drop to three times a week by mid-February.

The fifth freedom flight between Vancouver and Mexico City will decrease to five times a week.

Airlines expected to bounce back from the outbreak

Incidents like the coronavirus outbreak have been described as an economic sledgehammer for airlines. The SARS outbreak in 2003 was said to have caused an 8% drop in revenue per passenger kilometer across Asian airlines in 2003. SARS remains a common benchmark against which the current virus is being measured.

The Avian Flu outbreak in 2005 saw revenue per passenger kilometer decrease 2% across Asian airlines in that year.

More recently, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2015 saw a 12% drop in revenue per passenger kilometer in South Korea that year.

Airlines have historically bounced back okay from economic setbacks caused by viral outbreaks. Photo: Nicky Boogaard via Flickr.

These viral outbreaks generally lead to short sharp economic shock for airlines like China Southern. But there is also plenty of evidence that airlines recover fast from the economic setback. Previous outbreaks suggest it is not the mortality rate that adversely impacts on an airline’s bottom line, rather the size of the infected population.

While the 2005 Avian flu outbreak infected only 116 people, its mortality rate was 52%. But it didn’t spread. It’s argued because of that, the economic impact on regional airlines was minimized.

In contrast, coronavirus is killing relatively few people. The concern is the rate and spread of infection. That’s why China is imposing lockdowns and quarantines. That’s why countries are closing their borders to non-citizens who’ve recently been to mainland China. That’s why airlines like China Southern are scaling back and reducing services.

The schedule information in this article was originally published by Routesonline.