Last Thursday, following a committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new, fast-spreading coronavirus a global health emergency of grave
concern. Prior to that decision, many airlines had already cancelled or thinned out China flights to prevent passengers and crews from getting infected.
Most freight carriers have not reduced or even halted their China air ops yet, except for Lufthansa Cargo.
The list of airlines suspending passenger services to mainland China gets longer every day. British Airways closed reservations for flights to mainland China and suspended services up to 29 FEB
20 (LHR departures).
As did the Lufthansa Group (LH, AUA and Swiss), who announced that passenger flights to mainland China have been stopped until at least 9 February.
China routes are shunned
Basically, the same goes for Air Canada, United Airlines, SAS, El Al, and Turkish Airlines, among others.
Australian Qantas announced that it will discontinue its two China nonstop services between Sydney and Beijing and Sydney and Shanghai from 9 February to 29 March. Delta Air Lines suspends all China services from 6 February until 30 April, while American stops operating to and from China with immediate effect until March 27.
Meanwhile, the flight cancellations have reached an avalanche-like dimension. Currently, a total of 18 international airlines have either completely discontinued or greatly reduced their China passenger services. As the virus continues to spread rapidly, further flight suspensions are expected to be announced during the next days.
Reduced cargo flights
With immediate effect, Lufthansa Cargo has scaled down its operations to and from mainland China. This affects flights between Frankfurt and Shanghai. Further proceedings will be announced next Tuesday, the company states, emphasizing that freighter flights to Hong Kong will continue to be served according to schedule. In addition to this, LCAG says that until further notice, live animals (AVI) will no longer be accepted for carriage on routes to and from mainland China. How long the restriction will apply is left open by the company.
AirBridgeCargo also stopped all regular flights to China until 12 February. Until then, the carrier will operate on part or full charter basis. As of Feb. 12, the company plans to offer the market one flight a day on routes between the EU and China. In addition, ABC has cancelled all transpac flights till the end of February, the carrier's EU chief Andrey Andreev has told CargoForwarder Global.
DHL freezes all Hubei activities
DHL reports that their pick-up, delivery and warehousing services in Hubei province have been suspended. However, the Deutsche Post logistics arm does not see any other effects to its operational business in mainland China. “We will resume our service in Hubei province subject to local authority emergency controls,” states speaker Tim Rehkopf.
The background to this decision is that the local government in Hubei province has implemented a series of strict controls to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These include cancelling commercial flights to and from the city of Wuhan, as well as closing all highways and roads into Wuhan. As a globally operating company, epidemic and pandemic risk scenarios are an integral part of the Group's continuous risk planning, the company states.
The management points out that a special task force closely monitors the situation, coordinates with international organizations (such as the WHO), and provides the necessary information to all employees and relevant operations. “The safety of our employees is paramount, and we have contingency measures in place to mitigate any potential impact,” Mr. Rehkopf emphasizes.
In the meantime, freight forwarding associations have warned that the scrapping of passenger services greatly reduces the lower deck transport capacity, disrupting supply chains and severely affecting international trade. Particularly affected are imports and exports of perishables, temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, medical products as well as express shipments. As a consequence, air freight forwarders will have to find new ways to transport the freight they have booked to and from China.
No rail traffic in Hubei
Cargo trains are only a limited alternative as seen in the case of Hubei province with its capital city, Wuhan, where the virus broke out and spread rapidly. There, freight trains are not allowed to pass the province boundaries until the end of February. Rail freight traffic from other provinces will, however, remain in place. This has been confirmed by various companies operating the new Silk Road.
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