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Coronavirus outbreak forces massive airfare cancellations worldwide

By Jorge Coromina

The global outbreak of coronavirus, known as COVID19, has prompted massive air booking cancellations in Europe and the United States.

According to a study published by ForwardKeys, the travel analytics company, the outbreak of the COVID19 virus in Italy, in the final week of February, has triggered a wave of cancellations to that European country and a collapse in new bookings to Europe from intercontinental source markets.

From the moment China imposed restrictions on outbound travel, in the week of January 20 to February 22, and the outbreak of COVID19 cases in northern Italy began, bookings to Europe from Intercontinental source markets decreased by 23.7 percent, the ForwardKeys study goes on explain.

In the final week of February, the situation got worse off as the number of new bookings to Italy was suddenly outpaced by the cancellation of existing bookings. The impact on travel was not confined to Italy; simultaneously, the overall number of new flight bookings to Europe fell by a whopping 79 percent.

According to the ForwardKeys study, bookings from the Asia Pacific region fell by 114.2 percent, followed by the Americas which skidded by 68.1 percent and Africa & the Middle East, which slumped by 49.9 percent.

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The United States of America

A different but similar study published by ForwardKeys reports that the travel setback caused by the coronavirus outbreak has also hit the world’s second largest outbound travel market, the USA.

In the five weeks following the imposition of travel restrictions on outbound travel from China, there was a 19.3 percent decline in the number of bookings made for travel from the U.S.

The majority of the decline has been caused by a collapse in bookings for travel to the Asia Pacific region, down by 87.7 percent. In other words, less people booked a flight from the USA to the Asia Pacific region in the past five weeks.

Breaking the world down into 15 different regional destinations, all have seen a drop in bookings from the USA, in the past five weeks.  In the order of least to worst affected, bookings were down as follows: to Western Europe by 1.7 percent, to Southern Europe by 2.8 percent, to North America by 3.3 percent, to South America by 3.4 percent, to the Middle East by 4.2 percent, to Northern Europe by 5.5 percent, to Central/Eastern Europe by 7.7 percent, to the Caribbean by 12.5 percent, to Oceania by 21.3 percent, to South Asia by 23.7 percent and to South East Asia by 94.1 percent. In the case of North East Asia, there were more cancellations than new bookings.

US