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Airlines halt more flights on increased entry restrictions

All News 14:20 March 12, 2020

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korean airlines are halting more flights as countries around the world increasingly imposed entry restrictions in their fight against the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Asiana Airlines Inc. said Thursday it will suspend all of its flights to Thailand beginning Saturday through the end of this month as travel demand dried up amid virus fears.

It is the first time for the country's second-biggest airline to suspend the route to the Southeast Asian country since it began services in 1991.

Asiana has already suspended nearly 70 percent of its passenger-carrying flights as more than 120 countries and territories were imposing entry restrictions against visitors from South Korea as of Thursday.

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Bigger rival Korean Air Lines Co. said over 80 percent of its overall flights are not in operation. It had provided passenger and cargo carrying services to 115 cities in 44 countries before the coronavirus outbreak.

Local airlines have been struggling with a sharp decline in air travel demand since Jan. 20, when South Korea reported its first case of COVID-19.

Adding to woes of the South Korean airlines, Japan on Monday adopted a temporary 14-day self-quarantine period for people flying in from South Korea and China, and asked them to refrain from using public transport. Tokyo also decided to suspend its visa-waiver program for South Korean nationals.

The restriction will be implemented from March 9-31. Japan also suspended the 90-day visa-free entry program for South Koreans during the same period.

In response to Tokyo's new entry restrictions, Seoul suspended a visa-free entry program for Japanese nationals Monday.

The move prompted Korean Air, the country's biggest airline and national flag carrier, to suspend 16 of its flights on 17 routes, except for the Incheon-Narita route, to Japan starting Monday.

Asiana Airlines said it will suspend all of its flights to Japan from March 9-31 due to Japan's entry restrictions. It previously operated 11 routes to eight Japanese cities.

As of Thursday, South Korea reported 7,869 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 66 deaths.

Jeju Air Co., the country's largest low-cost carrier, said it will continue to serve two routes from Incheon to Tokyo and Osaka. Thirteen out of its 15 routes to Japan are not in operation.

Six other budget carriers -- Jin Air, Air Busan, Air Seoul, Eastar Jet, T'way and Fly Gangwon -- have already suspended all or most of their flights on international routes. Most of them have entered an emergency management system to stay afloat.

The seven budget carriers suspended all of their flights to Japan on Monday.

As of 1:50 p.m., Korean Air plunged 3.3 percent to 22,000 won, Asiana fell 6.1 percent to 3,720 won, and Jeju Air declined 3.7 percent to 19,350 won.


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