Hundreds of Beijing Flights Canceled After Virus Flare-Up

(Bloomberg) -- More than 1,200 flights in and out of Beijing were canceled Wednesday, state media reported, as the Chinese capital wrestles with a fresh coronavirus outbreak that’s infected at least 130 people.

The flight information pages on the websites of Beijing’s two airports were littered with red boxes in the “status” column to indicate flights were canceled to Guangzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai and other cities across the country. They included routes operated by the three biggest Chinese carriers: Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp. and China Southern Airlines Ltd.

Beijing Capital International Airport Co.’s flight departure page alone showed more than 80 cancellations for Wednesday morning, and about 50 inbound flights were canceled. The website of nine-month-old Daxing International Airport in the south of the city showed similar cuts.

A post on the People’s Daily Twitter account said 1,255 flights were canceled at the two airports, amounting to nearly 70% of those scheduled. Meanwhile, China State Railway Group Co. offered refunds to passengers who bought train tickets before midnight Tuesday. Some cross-provincial coach journeys were also canceled, according to Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport’s website.

Cases linked to the Beijing cluster have been reported as far as southeast China’s Zhejiang province, and authorities in the capital have closed schools and implemented more stringent checks on residents.

The re-emergence of the virus in Beijing after a lull of nearly two months is disrupting what was a strong recovery in China’s domestic travel market. While tight restrictions remain on international travel, Chinese carriers have been rebuilding seat capacity on domestic routes.

A spokesperson for China Eastern said the resumption of flights would depend on the market situation, and didn’t disclose figures for cancellations.

An Air China representative said the airline canceled a total of 272 flights on Wednesday, including more than 130 that were scheduled to depart from Beijing, and that the nature of the outbreak would determine decisions about services. China Southern wasn’t immediately available for comment.

China Eastern declined 2% in Hong Kong as of 1:53 p.m., while China Southern lost 1.4% and Air China fell 1.1%.

China’s scheduled weekly capacity in terms of seats was 13 million as of Monday, just 23% below the levels from the week starting Jan. 20, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide. The next biggest market in seat capacity is the U.S., with 7.4 million on this week’s schedule, OAG said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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