The coronavirus outbreak could threaten the survival of Korean Air after more than half of the world restricted passengers entering from South Korea. 

The airline’s president Woo Kee-hong reportedly said more than 80% of its international capacity had been cut as a result of global travel restrictions, compared with a 18% cut made during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

He is reported to have said in a memo to staff seen by Reuters: “We can easily imagine the severity of the crisis we are facing in comparison.

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“And what is more daunting is that the situation can get worse at any time and we cannot even predict how long it will last.” 

Woo said Korean Air had grounded about 100 of 145 its passenger aircraft, adding that its self-help measures so far included deferring investments, cutting down on operational expenses and encouraging employees to take voluntary leave. 

“But if the situation continues for a longer period, we may reach the threshold where we cannot guarantee the company’s survival.”

spokesman for Korean Air told the BBC the purpose of the internal memo was “to encourage employees and ask for understanding to overcome the crisis together”.

“We have gone through numerous difficulties for the past 51 years, and I’m confident that we will overcome this crisis together,” he said.