Struggling with a rapid surge in coronavirus transmissions since 19 February that has seen over 900 people now infected and ten deaths in the country, South Korea is now seeing its air connectivity contract as airlines pull back service similar to what unfolded in China.
Qatar Airways is the latest to implement a “temporary hold and schedule adjustments” to its operations to both South Korea and Iran, but notes this does not apply to its all-cargo services. This is being driven by what it says are “significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by certain countries.”
With travel restrictions on recent visitors to these countries, the airline says it is in a logistically challenging position to schedule crew on certain routes, limiting its ability to maintain scheduled operations elsewhere. As a result, the airline will temporarily readjust its services to South Korea and Iran from 26 February.
Flights to and from South Korea to Doha are temporarily adjusted to operate with a smaller aircraft. An A350-900 will replace a B777-300 to meet demand while only passengers with onward connections through Hamad International Airport are accepted for travel from Incheon Airport. For Iran, Qatar Airways’ scheduled passenger frequencies will be on temporary hold, effective from 26 February 2020, for an evaluation period of two weeks up to 14 March 2020.
Among those carriers that have suspended and/or reduced flights to South Korea include: Air New Zealand, Bamboo Airways, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.
Industry is increasingly being impacted with Korean automaker Hyundai Motors for instance, already reeling from the virus as a result of shortages of auto components caused by production cuts by its suppliers in China. South Korea accounts for approximately 40 per cent of Hyundai’s global production, according to Reuters.
Hyundai announced work stoppage at its Ulsan manufacturing plant in South Korea from 7 February citing the supply chain disruption in China.
Hyundai estimates sales revenue will drop by as much as 45 per cent due to the work stoppage.