Tue, Apr 01, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Flights reduced as bookings fall

AP AND BLOOMBERG , HONG KONG

Passengers boarding a Thai International Airways flight are handed with masks by airline staff, left and right, at Singapore's Changi Airport on Saturday. Thailand increased its monitoring at airports and border checkpoints following the first death in the country attributed to a new flu-like illness that has killed at least 55 people worldwide.

PHOTO: AFP

Thai Airways International Pcl said it canceled 28 flights to Kaohsiung, Seoul, Busan, Hong Kong because of a decline in demand. The cancellations come as people called off trips because of the war in Iraq and the outbreak of a respiratory illness that has affected more than 1,500 people worldwide.

Cathay Pacific Airways has decided to cut back its flight schedule following a loss in traffic brought on by the war in Iraq and a mystery disease outbreak.

Cathay announced yesterday a temporary reduction in regional services in response to a recent softening in passenger demand, which is expected to affect eight destinations including Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Denpasar, Jakarta, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

The changes, representing a four-percent reduction in passenger capacity, will begin in mid-April and are planned to remain in place unitl May 31, the company said in a statement.

"These are temporary measures made in response to softening demand," said Augustus Tang, Cathay's director of corporate planning. "We will continue to monitor the market and make adjustments as necessary."

Cathay is Hong Kong's biggest airline.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has sickened at least 530 people in Hong Kong and 13 have died.

There are concerns it has been spreading among airline travelers, compounding a loss in business that air carriers were already suffering due to the US-led war in Iraq.

Hong Kong's second-largest airline, Dragonair, has also seen a drop in business and said previously it might cut services. Dragonair did not immediately respond to a reporter's inquiries yesterday about whether it had made a decision.

Meanwhile, Japan Airlines System Corp, Asia's biggest carrier, said more than 20,000 passengers have canceled bookings on international flights in March and April since the outbreak of war in Iraq.

The carrier last week said it will suspend or reduce more overseas services, cutting capacity for April by 8 percent from its earlier plan, to cope with a slump in demand triggered by the war. Japan Airlines earlier cut its annual net income forecast by two thirds, blaming the war and a weaker economy.

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