The air cargo industry is bracing itself for the impact of measures taken to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China. Overnight, British Airways announced that it would suspend all direct flights to and from mainland China, with others expected to follow. United Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Air Canada are amongst the other airlines that had already announced plans to reduce flight numbers.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has extended the New Year holiday – a time when production in the country comes to a halt – by at least three days, until February 3. Businesses in the Guangdong province, which includes Shanghai, have been ordered to remain closed until further notice. Most flights into and out of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, were stopped last week.
It isn’t yet clear what impact this could have on air cargo, although supply chains are expected to be hit, with belly-hold air cargo capacity already reduced. Meanwhile, there has been some suggestion that there could be a surge in demand when factories re-open. Freight forwarder Westbound Shipping said that its staff in China would work from home, but supply chains would be affected as truckers, warehouse staff, cargo handlers, manufacturing staff would not be able to return to work for longer than expected