Mers outbreak prompts wave of flight cancellations

Mers outbreak prompts wave of flight cancellations

A wave of flight cancellations is spreading across Asia following an outbreak of Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in South Korea, according to latest data.

More than 150 people in the country are reported to have been infected with Mers and Germany suffered its first death from the disease yesterday.

The outbreak in South Korea reportedly originated from a 68-year-old man who had travelled to the Middle East. He was diagnosed as the country's first Mers patient last month.

Four new cases were reported there on Tuesday, as well as three deaths. There is currently no cure or vaccine that can protect people from Mers.

The disease is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) and is most likely spread by coughs and sneezes.

The Mers outbreak, which initially caused flight bookings to South Korea to plummet, is now having an even greater impact to travel across the region, latest figures from ForwardKeys show.

The company monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million reservation transactions each day.

Co-founder and chief executive, Olivier Jager, said: “The Mers outbreak is having a truly dramatic impact on travel to and within Asia as cancellations to South Korea are spreading worldwide and in Asia in the week of June 6-12 there have been more cancellations than bookings.”

Net bookings over the seven days fell by 188% from north-east Asia and by 131% from the rest of Asia. Net bookings from all other continents fell by more than 60% over the same period last year.

During the same period, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China continued to lead the substantial cancellation trend, with declines in net bookings of 329%, 298% and 182% respectively.

After issuing a “red alert” against Korea on June 9, Hong Kong saw double the number of cancellations for the following three days compared to last year.

Japan is the only country in Asia that has seen a positive volume of daily net bookings. The wave of cancellations of travel to South Korea is now affecting July.

Net future bookings fell by just over 40% in the week of June 13 and now the first week of July has 3% fewer net bookings than at the same time last year, the ForwardKeys analysis shows.

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