The Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taiwan has put 4.2 billion Taiwan New Dollars (US$140 million) aside to assist the Island nation’s airlines if the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen.
While speaking to the Taiwanese parliament last Wednesday, ch-aviation quotes minister Chia-lung Lin as saying that the move was aimed at subsidizing airline landing and airport facilities costs.
“The aviation industry is being hard hit by the epidemic. It is the biggest victim,” Lin said, adding that the industry as a whole, including airport operators and duty-free stores, were suffering.
Financial support to airports
The figure the government came up with was calculated to coincide with an estimated 25% drop in passenger numbers since the coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan, China.
Rather than just give Taiwanese airlines money, it was decided that exemptions at Taiwan airports to keep them funded and operating normally was the correct approach to take.
With no clear timeline as to when the new airport subsidies will come into effect or how much it will actually help Taiwanese carriers, China Airlines has canceled 6,500 flights during February, March, and April. In an open letter to China Airlines’ 10,000 employees, the human resources department describes the fallout from the coronavirus as being akin to the airline being hit by an “avalanche” according to daily newspaper the United Daily News.
In an effort to stem the impact that the coronavirus outbreak is having on the airline, salaries have been cut by 10% and employees are being asked to take unpaid leave. In reference to the SARS epidemic in 2003, the letter claimed that this time it will take much longer for the airline to recover.
“Even when the epidemic ends, the company will need more time to recover than in the past.”
It is not just Asia being hit by the coronavirus
Having just returned from Madrid’s Barajas International Airport (MAD), I can confirm that half-empty planes were landing and that many healthy-looking passengers were wearing masks.
Last week airline stocks took a tumble as investors took in the severity of how the coronavirus would impact sales and a reduction in services for months to come. When speaking about the effect that the coronavirus was having on airlines, trade organization boss of Airlines for America, Nicholas E. Calio, told the New York Times:
“There are dramatically fewer people flying this week than there were last week, flights are being taken down because people aren’t getting on airplanes.”
Italy quarantines 16 million people
With the death toll of the coronavirus now having passed 230 people in Italy, the Italian government has imposed a quarantine on 16 million people. These latest moves mirror efforts made by the Chinese to help contain the spread of the virus from its epicenter in Wuhan. As more governments around the world look to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and people are fearful of being in confined spaces such as airplanes, airlines will see a downturn in traffic at levels not experienced since the aftermath of 9/11.
Have you voluntarily put off your travel plans due to the coronavirus, or do you think it is safe to keep flying? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.