Qantas Pushes On With China Flights Amid Deadly Coronavirus Outbreak

Qantas has not suspended flights to mainland China but is offering “flexible options” to customers wanting to avoid the disease-hit country.

Quantas Dreamliner takes off from Adelaide
Qantas has not joined other international airlines in suspending flights to China. Photo: Mertie via Flickr

A Qantas spokeswoman told The New Daily customers could cancel or change tickets to or from China with no extra fees, as long as they were purchased before 24th January 2020.

“Qantas flights are currently operating as normal and we will continue to monitor the situation. If there are any changes to your flight you will be contacted directly. Please visit the Manage My Booking section of our website to ensure your contact details are up to date.”

The airline’s flights are operating as normal, though chief executive Alan Joyce recently stated it was reviewing its underperforming Sydney to Beijing route.

With demand for flights to China dropping significantly in the last week, it is likely the route will be severely affected by the virus’s market effects.

2019 novel coronavirus model
A 3d model of the 2019 novel coronavirus. Image: Gianluca Tomasello via Wikimedia

Coronavirus and travel

An outbreak of a new strain of novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has rapidly spread throughout the country. As of Friday morning, it has killed around 170 people and infected nearly 8,000.

Numerous global airlines have suspended flights to China, and more are considering the option. Qantas is not required to suspend any flights, and the Australian Government has not recommended it do so.

The government’s Smarttraveller website’s advice to passengers is to “reconsider your need for travel” to China, and not to travel to Hubei Province where the disease is centered. The World Health Organisation just yesterday declared the outbreak a global emergency, but it’s not know how this will affect airlines like Qantas yet.

Disease found in Australia

As of Friday morning, authorities have confirmed nine cases of the novel coronavirus in Australia, all involving people who have recently flown from China. Health authorities are tracking down and monitoring people who were on the same flights or have been in close contact with the infected.

The Australian Government is in discussions with Qantas to bring stranded Australians home from Wuhan. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, these people will be flown to Christmas Island and quarantined for 14 days.

The Department of Health says is it “very well prepared” for further coronavirus cases.

“We already have in place border, isolation, surveillance and case tracing mechanisms.”

British Airways, Coronavirus, China Cancellations
The UK government has advised against all but essential travel to the yellow area, and all travel to the red area. Image: OpenStreetMap/Simple Flying

Airlines shutting off China routes

Qantas is bucking an international trend.

Major airlines including American Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways and Cathay Pacific have temporarily shut down their routes to and from China. Air New Zealand has just announced it will also reduce services to China.

Share prices for most major international airlines have fallen since the coronavirus outbreak. Social media commentators speculate that shutting down these flights could be more profitable for some airlines than operating them with reduced demand.

Others have called some airlines irresponsible for refusing to suspend flights, but it would be an impossible task to quarantine the most populous country in the world.

Do you think Qantas should join these airlines in suspending its China routes until the coronavirus outbreak is under control?