The travel announcement is expected to deliver yet another blow to an airline industry already reeling from a drop in bookings and a surge in people canceling reservations for fear of getting sick with the coronavirus. The disruption is also certain to ripple through economies, causing widespread damage to hotels, car rental companies, museums and restaurants.
Airlines have been slashing their flight schedules, especially on international routes, to cope with a sharp decline in travel demand among fearful customers. Business travel is slowing as companies impose restrictions on employee travel and major conferences are canceled.
An industry trade group warned that airlines worldwide could lose up to $113 billion in revenue from the virus — several times the damage caused by the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. Since mid-February, shares of American Airlines have dropped by nearly half, United Airlines by more than one-third, and Delta Air Lines more than one-fourth.
It isn’t just U.S. airlines feeling the pain. Germany’s Lufthansa plans to cut up to half its flights because of a “drastic” drop in bookings. In Asia, travel restrictions are taking a toll on that region’s airlines. Cathay Pacific Airways warned Wednesday it faces a “substantial loss” in the first half of this year. The Hong Kong-based airline canceled 90% of its flight capacity to the mainland at the start of February after Beijing told the public to avoid travel as part of efforts to contain the outbreak centered on the city of Wuhan.
On Wednesday, Boeing’s stock fell 18% — its biggest one-day percentage drop since 1974 — and the iconic airplane manufacturer announced a hiring freeze.
The president’s drastic travel announcement sharply contrasted his response to the virus so far.
He has consistently sought to downplay the severity of the virus, including falsely claiming last month that the number of U.S. cases would be “close to zero” within days. Instead of recommending that people to take precautions, Trump has repeatedly pleaded for “calm” and inaccurately said the illness is no worse than seasonal flu.
Contrastingly, Trump said in his Oval Office address that people should wash their hands, clean used surfaces, cover their mouths while sneezing and not go to work if they feel sick. He urged older people, in particular, to follow the advice.
“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered dire warnings about the virus during an appearance before the House Oversight Committee.
“I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Fauci said, adding that the virus could impact “many, many millions” of people if “we are complacent.”
Health experts have warned that upward of 60% of the American population could be infected by the virus.
Fauci also affirmed that the coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu, directly contradicting Trump’s previously rosy assessments.
Most people recover from the virus within a few weeks and only experience mild symptoms, such as fever and a cough. However, older people and individuals with underlying health problems can experience more severe symptoms, including pneumonia.
With News Wires