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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 19 News List

Business Focus: Losses riseas Asianairlinescut flights

By Sean Kennedy  /  REUTERS , HONG KONG

Losses mounted for Asian airlines yesterday as they cancelled more flights to the US in the wake of devastating attacks.

Hundreds of flights have been suspended or diverted since Tuesday's air attacks, stranding thousands of passengers and tonnes of cargo, and travel agents said nervous customers were rushing to cancel US and Canadian holiday trips.

"So many people have cancelled their holidays. They are so scared. They don't even want to go to Canada because they think these terrorists are mad," said agent Louise Lee in Hong Kong.

"Except for businesspeople, nobody wants to go," Lee said.

The US shut its airspace early on Tuesday after three hijacked planes slammed into the Pentagon and the twin towers in New York's World Trade Center.

It was the first time all of the nation's airports had been closed to civilian traffic.

US airports reopened yesterday but operations were limited to planes that had been diverted from their flight paths during the emergency. It was not clear when normal service would resume.

The suspension of service and loss of confidence in air travel are fresh blows to Asian carriers, already reeling from the world economic slowdown and high jet fuel prices. Some Asian airlines derive as much as 25 percent of their business from the US.

US regional carrier Midway Airlines, already operating under bankruptcy protection, yesterday became one of the first companies to cease business due to the terror attacks in the US.

It said it expected a drop in demand for air travel following the hijackings.

In Hong Kong, a regional hub, 38 flights to the US and Canada were expected to be cancelled or delayed, including nine cargo flights, the Airport Authority said.

Hong Kong's dominant carrier Cathay Pacific Airways cancelled its six passenger flights to the US yesterday and said all flights from the continent were cancelled until further notice.

Cathay said it would review its position after a statement by the US Federal Aviation Administration expected late yesterday. The Airport Authority, which runs Hong Kong International Airport, said operations were normal apart from the suspensions.

A spokeswoman said passengers planning to travel to the US after US airports reopen should expect tougher security screening and should contact their airlines for details.

But some stranded passengers were growing irate. "I need to get there [to the US] as soon as possible because I have important business," businessman Li Tat-leung said as he waited for an Air Canada flight that had been delayed several times and then cancelled.

Japan Airlines said it cancelled 26 flights to the US, Guam, Saipan, Canada, and Brazil, but flights to Australia, Europe, Asia, South Korea, and China were operating.

All Nippon Airways said it had cancelled nine flights to the US, including Guam and Honolulu. ANA, which depends on the US for 3.5 percent of its passenger numbers, said it was losing ?60 million (US$502,200) per day on the cancellations.

Korean Air (KAL) cancelled eight passenger flights to the US and delayed four cargo flights, said William Han, a KAL spokesman. Korea's second-largest carrier Asiana Airlines suspended all six passenger flights to US cities set down for yesterday and three cargo flights were delayed.

Taiwan's Chiang Kai Shek International Airport cancelled all flights to the US and Canada yesterday.

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