Low-cost air carrier Norwegian is to cancel 3,000 flights as the number of global coronavirus cases soars. The airline is set to pull the plug on 15 percent of its flights between mid-March and mid-June.
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The airline, which flies from UK hubs including Gatwick, Manchester, and Edinburgh, has made the decision following a decline in demand for travel.
As the number of confirmed cases has surpassed 110,000 in 115 countries, authorities are starting to advise people to avoid travel to certain regions.
Norwegian’s entire network will be affected by the schedule changes, and customers whose flights have been cancelled will be informed in due course.
The company has also put in place several other money saving measures, including temporary layoffs of a significant share of its workforce.
“This is a critical time for the aviation industry, including us at Norwegian. We encourage the authorities to immediately implement measures to imminently reduce the financial burden on the airlines in order to protect crucial infrastructure and jobs,” said CEO Jacob Schram of Norwegian.
“Unfortunately, cancellations will affect a significant share of our colleagues at Norwegian.
“We have initiated formal consultations with our unions regarding temporary layoffs for flying crew members as well as employees on the ground and in the offices.
“We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with unions and employees to work through this difficult situation together.”
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According to Norwegian’s website: “If your flight has been cancelled, we do our best to rebook you to your final destination. If we don’t do this for you, you can change your booking online. You can also choose to change your booking to a later date, to the same destination (including your onward and return flights with us) where there are seats available.
“If you no longer want to travel, you can cancel your booking and claim for a refund of your unused ticket, including any onward flights and your return journey (provided they’re with us).”
However, it is not yet clear if the airline will be applying these rules to the cancelled flights between March and June.
The airline previously halted all flights to Italy.
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The cancellations add to a difficult financial month for Norwegian, which has reportedly seen air traffic fall by five percent in the final days of February.
Norwegian is the latest in a string of airlines to pull flights amid growing concerns over the spread of the deadly disease.
easyJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have all recently cancelled flights to affected destinations.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week estimated that losses in revenue for airlines due to the new
coronavirus could range from £48 billion ($63 billion) to £87 billion ($113 billion), depending on whether the spread of the virus was contained.
In a bid to instil confidence in passengers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are both allowing passengers to switch or cancel flights for no additional charge.
This includes routes where there is not yet an FCO travel advisory in place.
At present, the UK government has not yet advised against all travel.
However, there are travel advisories in place for China, South Korea and Italy.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says that basic hand hygiene should be enough to lessen the spread of the virus.
The government is advising people to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or utilise hand sanitiser where soap and water are not available.
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