Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Flights to Japan are unaffected by latest SARS case

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

China Airlines Co (華航) and EVA Airlines Corp (長榮航空) said yesterday that flights to Japan remained normal, after a Taiwanese physician returning from Japan was confirmed to be infected with SARS on Saturday.

"Nothing unusual with our flights to Japan as of today," said China Airlines spokesman Roger Han (韓梁中), "and we haven't seen obvious changes in the number of passengers."

A physician from Mackay Memorial Hospital who traveled to Japan was confirmed as having SARS after returning to Taiwan.

The case, however, has not prompted booking cancelations by tour groups to Japan for EVA as of yesterday, said company spokesman Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維).

Both Han and Nieh said they do not expect the occupancy rate on the route to drop any further, as the carriers already suffered from a fall-off in bookings since the outbreak of SARS last month.

Currently, average occupancy on the carriers' services to Japan stays around 30 to 40 percent for EVA and less than 50 percent for China Airlines, they said.

But fear of the spread of SARS to Japan has prompted the Okinawa Prefectural government to suggest temporary suspension of the Taipei-Okinawa flight by China Airlines, while some of Japan's hotels were reportedly refusing lodging to people coming from Taiwan, China or Hong Kong.

China Airlines' Han said they have no plan to cancel daily flights on the route to Okinawa, which still enjoys a 60-percent occupancy rate. "But we will make our utmost effort to prevent passengers from contracting the virus while flying."

The Miyako Hotel in Osaka yesterday barred guests from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, according to a media report citing spokesman Tomoyuki Honiden.

The case has triggered further concerns for local travel agencies.

"In the past more than 70,000 tourists visited Japan per month," said Roget Hsu (許高慶), secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association (中華民國旅行公會). "But the figure declined to about 7,000 last month and, with the case, may fall further in the coming months."

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