AIR TRAFFIC in the Asia Pacific is set to plunge 24% in the first three months of this year because of the coronavirus’s impact on travel, erasing $3 billion in revenue for the region’s airports, a regional industry group said.
“Unlike airlines, who can choose to cancel flights or relocate their aircraft to other markets to reduce operating costs, airport operators manage immovable assets that cannot be closed down,” Stefano Baronci, director at Airports Council International Asia Pacific, said in a statement Monday. “They are faced with immediate cash flow pressures with limited ability to reduce fixed costs and few resources to fund capacity expansion efforts.”
Airlines across the world are slashing capacity, asking staff to take unpaid leave and grounding jets as demand sinks because of concern about the coronavirus, which has killed more than 3,800 people and infected over 109,000. Publicly listed airport service providers in Asia have slumped more than 12% this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show, while the International Air Transport Association warned of revenue losses of as much as $113 billion for airlines globally in 2020.
The slump in travel also means reduced landing and parking fees that airports charge airlines, ACI said. The gateways are facing lower numbers of Chinese travelers, the world’s biggest and highest-spending outbound tour group, according to ACI.
The group also cautioned against IATA’s request for regulators to suspend rules that require carriers to operate a certain number of flights from allocated slots or lose them. Such a move would give airlines the freedom to cancel flights at congested airports not necessarily linked to the coronavirus outbreak, hurting local economies, it said. — Bloomberg