Airline bookings to Europe fall by 79% amid coronavirus fears
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    Airline bookings to Europe fall by 79% amid coronavirus fears

    The outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy over the last week of February has triggered a wave of cancellations. Credit: Pxhere

    Flights booked to Europe from all over the world have fallen by 79% in the last week of February due to the coronavirus (Covid-19), according to travel analytics company Forwardkeys.

    The outbreak of the coronavirus “in Italy over the last week of February has triggered a wave of cancellations to Italy, and a collapse in new bookings to Europe from Intercontinental source markets,” from the Americas (a 68.1% drop), Asia-Pacific (a 114.2% drop, meaning cancellations exceeded new bookings) and Africa and the Middle East (a 49.9% drop), according to a report by Forwardkeys, which analyses over 17 million bookings and 7 million searches for flights worldwide every day.

    In Europe, Italy saw the number of cancellations exceed the number of new bookings in the last week of February, according to the company. Many companies, including Brussels Airlines, decided to scrap or reduce their flights to mainly the northern region of the county.

    “The drop-off in bookings to Italy is even worse than we have observed in the past for some of the most disruptive events such as terror attacks,” said Olivier Ponti, the company’s Vice President. “The booking behaviour appears to be disproportionate, as parts of Europe other than Italy are experiencing very substantial declines in visitor interest,” he added.

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    Between 25 January (the date China suspended foreign travel arrangements) and 22 February, air bookings to Europe from other continents had initially fallen by 23.7%. However, in the last week of February, the impact on travel “was not confined to Italy: total new bookings for flights to Europe fell by 79%,” said Forwardkeys.

    Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that several airlines had seen about half their passengers fail to show up for flights, as well as numerous cancelled bookings and spikes in requests for reimbursement.

    “When it comes to tourism, we should bear in mind that the more people travel within Europe, the more stable the travel economy will be, said Petra Stušek, President at European Cities Marketing. “It is important to stay calm, not to overreact and work to keep ourselves and our communities safe, but also functioning, until the recovery,” she added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times