Almost 100,000 flights were cancelled during the first month of the coronavirus outbreak, with the same number again estimated to have been proactively removed from the schedules.
The figures have been calculated by the data analyst, Cirium, for the period between 23 January and 18 February 2020.
The grounded flights account for over two-thirds of China’s originally scheduled flights.
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Airlines have been steadily increasing the number of flights they have cancelled.
The cancellations have been so wide-ranging that they are denting global growth significantly.
Richard Evans, senior consultant at Ascend by Cirium, said: “For the first eight weeks of the year, Cirium’s schedules data shows that global capacity fell by 0.9 per cent compared to 2019.”
But, he added: “The next two weeks showing a continuing fall of around 10 per cent year-on-year, led by Chinese airlines having removed over 60 per cent of their scheduled flights.”
The International Air Transport Association has predicted stagnation or a slight contraction of the global market in 2020.
Mr Evans said: “We are also now seeing impact outside of China. Countries with the biggest exposure to outbound Chinese leisure travellers, such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia have seen schedules cut by 70 per cent or more on services to China.
Those countries are now seeing significant reductions on non-Chinese routes.
Hong Kong is also seeing large schedule cuts, with flights flown down by around two-thirds this week.
But evidence from the Sars outbreak in 2003 indicates that once a fall in the number of new Covid-19 cases is clear and sustained, recovery can be swift.
“Within six months post-outbreak, passenger traffic growth had recovered and 2004 saw double-digit growth,” said Mr Evans.
The latest figures from the World Health Organization, for 20 February, show a sharp fall – though changes in classifications are making it difficult to identify exact trends.
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