The deadly and dreaded coronavirus has reached epidemic proportions in the world today. Some experts state that it’s worse than the previous epidemic of Ebola. As of writing, the death toll from the coronavirus has reached 910 globally, with thousands battling for life in hospitals.
The scare of the virus – especially for travellers who are in China or somewhere in Asia – has reached an all-time high; with people clamouring to get back home before things turn bad. But, with various Governments trying to curtail the spread of the virus beyond China, stringent health checks are being done at the landing pads at home airports, before allowing travellers to alight and head out. This has affected the number of flights that can be accommodated at airports, at any given time and there is a massive hold-up of flights – with numerous routes being delayed for hours.
In some cases, it is worse. In early February, British Airways cancelled a major chunk of its direct routes between China and the UK, in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. This has affected hundreds of travellers, stranding many and creating further delays on other airlines.
More airlines cancel China routes
The move to cancel all direct routes to/from China (at least temporarily) isn’t something that is unique to British Airways. Reports indicate that 13 other airlines too have either reduced the number of or cancelled direct flights to and from mainland China indefinitely. While the cities of Shanghai and Beijing are the most affected by this lack of connectivity, some airlines have even pulled the plug on nearby Hong Kong, which isn’t the centre of the epidemic.
The airlines that have chosen the recourse of route reduction/cancellation largely belong to the Americas and Europe; with a sprinkling of Asian airlines. The 13 airlines (apart from British Airways) reported to have ended China travel are Air Canada, Air Seoul, Air Tanzania, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Australian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, IndiGo, JetStar, Lion Air, Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines and United Airlines.
While most of these airlines have stated their interest in re-opening Chinese routes after March, others are still quiet about their plans. There is growing fear that more airlines will stop travel to China, as more Governments work to contain the spread of the coronavirus to mainland China.
This situation is expected to get worse as the threat of the virus increases.
Travellers offered alternative flights or fees-off on self-cancellations
For a lot of people, it has been just sheer luck to get tickets to fly back home. But many aren’t so lucky. Hundreds of Britons are still stranded in China, away from home and family. Because of the lack of airlines servicing China-UK routes, the price of tickets has skyrocketed as well.
For those who are desperate to get back home, airlines which have reduced or cancelled their flights, are making alternative arrangements free-of-cost for affected travellers. But they make no guarantees about the schedule of the new airline. For travellers who’re willing to brave the storm in China or who have no choice but to stay back, airlines are allowing them to cancel their tickets (right up to the date of travel) completely free of fine.