The virus, which has now infected over 66,500 people and claimed the lives of more than 1,300, with the first deaths also being recorded outside China, has not only led to a number of airlines cancelling or massively reducing their scheduled China flights, but is also having a knock-on effect on a number of global conferences taking place now and over the next months.
The Mobile World Congress which was due to take place in Barcelona this month, this week issued the following statement on its website: “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in
Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it
impossible for the GSMA to hold the event. […] Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”
Around 30 companies had already pulled out of the event which annually attracts more than 100,000 attendees, around 6% of which are from China.
Similarly, the FinTech India expo for 19-21FEB20 in New Delhi, India, was postponed even before the first confirmation of 2 coronavirus cases in the country.
“Exhibitions India Group is strongly committed to provide robust safety to all our exhibitors, visitors and partners and to support the government’s efforts in controlling the coronavirus outbreak. The health of our show attendees is our primary concern. As a precautionary measure, we are rescheduling [and working on] new dates, which will be advised shortly. We believe our decision is most prudent under the current circumstance and look forward to your co-operation and understanding.”
Caution and precaution
In London, UK, the 250 attendees of the 06FEB20 UK Bus Summit at the QEII Conference Centre, were contacted last week after it emerged that one of them had recently been diagnosed with the virus.
At other events, such as the annual Samsung “Unpacked” conference in San Francisco last week, thermal imaging cameras were used to detect fevers, and the attendees’ attention was drawn to hygiene regulations to reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus. Many conference hosts are pointing to the WHO pages in order to ensure health and safety standards at their events. The global travel industry website, Skift, has issued a list of Asian trade fairs and conferences currently affected by the coronavirus: https://skift.com/2020/02/12/a-list-of-trade-fairs-and-conferences-in-china-affected-by-coronavirus/
Cargo conferences planned or cancelled?
In the cargo and aviation world, the Cargo Facts Asia conference, originally due to take place in Shanghai at the end of April, has now been moved to Singapore, whilst Routes Asia which was scheduled to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for 08-10MAR20, has been postponed to 07-09JUN20. "This is unprecedented in the history of Routes events and we have not taken the decision lightly, but the safety of our customers and staff is always our top priority," Routes director of events Steven Small explained. Messe München’s Air Cargo India at the end of this month, is going ahead as planned.
While there is a fake rumor going around on social media that the Tokyo Summer Olympics at the end of JUL20 have been called off, the chief executive of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, recently admitted "I am extremely worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games. I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed last week that the Games will go ahead as planned.
“Force majeure” – or “grand malheur” ?
What is also planned to go ahead, is the Air Cargo China trade fair in Shanghai, 16-18JUN20, organized by Messe München. Many large companies have already booked and paid their stands, however, should the trade fair be called off due to the pandemic, experts believe that these companies will not be reimbursed given that the cancellation reason falls under "force majeure". In addition to the prospect of many participants cancelling or not showing up due to the progressive, feared spread of the virus, another risk is the insufficient number of flights to and from Shanghai. "It does not make much sense to stand at your trade booth if there are hardly going to be any visitors there," an airline manager told CFG, when asked.
Those airlines that have recently cancelled or reduced their China services, are continually pushing back the date on which they plan to resume their schedule, due to the ever-increasing high risk of infection.
No pax flights, no conferences, reduced cargo movements
Naturally, with conferences being cancelled or postponed, the further knock-on effect is the loss of major cargo logistics projects connected with these trade fairs. It is still too early to say how long this unusual crisis situation will go on for, and how many more businesses will suffer from it.
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Volga-Dnepr Group, decided to operate “sterilized” charter flights to and from China while halting scheduled ops. These include a number of hygienic measures on board the freighters like spraying antiseptics in the cockpits, the pilots’ bunks, the galleys with their courier seat area but also the main decks, this way sterilizing the entire aircraft.
V-D Group considers introducing a “Clean Charter” product
On average, three to five charter flights are being operated by the Volga-Dnepr Group daily, with a number of preventive measures being taken to ensure the safety of personnel, cargo, and aircraft accordingly, assures the Group in a release.
Whilst the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency has decided to temporarily limit passenger air traffic between Russia and China for the time being, there are no current restrictions to cargo airlines.
In response to the repeated global viral outbreaks (SARS, Avian flu, Corona et alia) Volga-Dnepr is considering the introduction of a "Clean Charter" product which will ensure the secure transportation of cargo during difficult epidemiological conditions, states the company.
On a positive note: Austrian Airlines is trying to make the best of the current corona situation and is using this time of uncertainty to bring forward scheduled maintenance work on its aircraft.
We always welcome your comments to our articles. However, we can only publish them when the sender name is authentic.