Chinese carriers cut flights to Kathmandu as passengers cancel tickets en masseArrivals from China have all but dried up due to the 'rapidly spreading' coronavirus outbreak, airline officials said.
Many Chinese airlines are facing a similar situation as traveller movement from different Chinese cities to Kathmandu has all but dried up due to the 'rapidly spreading' coronavirus outbreak in China, according to airline officials in Kathmandu.
If passenger numbers continue to remain at this level for a few more days, all flights to and from China may be suspended, airline officials said. As of Sunday, most Chinese carriers had temporarily suspended their flights. Some of them have halved their frequency throughout February.
Currently, six Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Tibet Airlines—operate flights to Nepal. Nepal-China joint venture Himalaya Airlines flies to Chongqing, Beijing, Changsha, Guiyang and Shenzhen.
China Southern could be the hardest hit. It carries 35 percent of the 573,082 passengers who travel between China and Nepal annually due to its double daily flights between Kathmandu and Guangzhou.
On Sunday, China Southern cancelled its morning flights to Nepal until February 17 and another three days beginning February 20, the airline said. “Due to bulk cancellations by the passengers, we have cancelled our morning flight effective from Sunday,” said Dhiraj Chandra Shrestha, deputy sales manager of the China Southern Airlines office in Kathmandu. “But we will continue our night flights.”
Shrestha said, “We are getting travellers in nominal numbers from China. The flight booking status was good until last week, but landing restrictions imposed by a few countries like Australia, the US, New Zealand and Myanmar, passenger numbers hit rock bottom,” he said, adding that transit passengers were also cancelling their tickets rapidly.
“The trend is not looking good, and if this continues for a few days, we may be forced to cancel all flights,” said Shrestha.
Sichuan Airlines that operates four weekly flights on the Chengdu-Lhasa-Kathmandu sector said it had been instructed by its headquarters to cut flights.
“We have cut our frequency to two flights a week,” said Sangita Rauniyar, operation head of Society International Travel, the general sales agent of Sichuan Airlines in Kathmandu. According to Rauniyar, Sichuan will operate flights on February 7, 10, 12, 16 and 19.
Air China, which operates daily flights on the Chengdu-Kathmandu route, has cut 12 flights in February, a reduction of almost 50 percent.
Lhasa-based Tibet Airlines was the first carrier to announce a temporary suspension of its flights from Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province in central China, to Kathmandu. The airline issued a notice to all travel agencies that from Sunday onwards it was stopping all flights to and from Kathmandu until further notice.
Vijay Shrestha, vice-president of administration at Himalaya Airlines, told the Post that flights to Changsha, Guiyang and Shenzhen had been temporarily suspended. “But we may continue the Beijing service as a commercial consideration,” he said. That means flights to Beijing are likely to be operates if there are passengers, he said.
Last Sunday, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an emergency notice ordering national travel agencies and online travel companies to temporarily suspend tour packages. “From now on, national travel agencies and online travel companies will temporarily suspend business group travel and ‘ticket + hotel’ travel products,” said the notice.
Nepali travel trade entrepreneurs said that all tour packages sold for February had been cancelled.