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(LEAD) Airlines to suspend flights to Daegu over virus fears

All News 12:02 February 24, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with Korean Air's suspension of Incheon-Tel Aviv route in paras 10-12)
By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korean airlines have suspended or plan to halt flights to South Korea's southeastern city of Daegu, where hundreds of new coronavirus infections have been reported over the weekend.

Korean Air Lines Co., the country's biggest airline, canceled its flights to Daegu from the southern resort island of Jeju and Incheon, South Korea's main gateway, on Sunday.

Korean Air said the two routes will be suspended until March 28.

The move came as Daegu -- South Korea's fourth-largest city, with a population of 2.4 million -- has emerged as a hotbed of coronavirus outbreaks in South Korea.

Of the 763 people so far infected with COVID-19, 636 are based in Daegu, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province.

Streets in downtown Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, are nearly empty on Feb. 23, 2020, as residents avoid going outside amid the spread of the new coronavirus in the city. (Yonhap)

Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's second-biggest airline, said it will suspend the Daegu-Jeju route -- its only domestic route connected to Daegu -- from Tuesday through March 9.

Air Busan Co., a budget carrier unit of Asiana Airlines, said it halted its Daegu-Jeju and Daegu-Taipei routes last week.

Air Busan plans to remove its office in Daegu in coming weeks.

Jeju Air Co., South Korea's biggest low-cost carrier, said it will suspend its Daegu-Jeju route -- its only domestic route connected to Daegu -- from Monday through Feb. 29.

Separately, Korean Air halted operation of its Incheon-Tel Aviv route on Monday. The suspension will remain in effect until March 28.

The move came two days after Israel barred nearly 180 foreigners, including 130 Koreans, aboard a Korean Air flight from entering the country without any prior notice after they landed in Tel Aviv. They returned to Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Sunday.

Nearly 30 South Koreans who recently made a group pilgrimage to Israel have been found to be infected with coronavirus.

Also Monday, Air Busan said its employees will voluntarily take unpaid leave as air travel demand has plummeted due to the spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Air Busan said many of its 1,400 employees are set to choose from three options -- working four days a week, or taking 15 days or 30 days of unpaid leave -- beginning March.

Air Busan has also said it will cut wages of its executives and heads of departments by up to 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The carrier said it will suspend nine Chinese and 19 Southeast Asian routes in March due to a sharp decline in air travel demand over the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, all of Asiana Airlines' 10,500 employees began to take turns going on 10 days of unpaid leave as part of the cost-cutting measure.


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