El Al halts all Hong Kong flights, reduces flights to Thailand

"The company is in contact with the relevant agencies and authorities in Israel and worldwide, and is continuing to monitor the issue on a regular basis," the company told the stock exchange.

The first of Israel's El Al Airlines order of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv (photo credit: REUTERS)
The first of Israel's El Al Airlines order of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets lands at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv
(photo credit: REUTERS)
El Al Israel Airlines said it was “temporarily stopping” flights to Hong Kong and reducing services to Bangkok on Wednesday, as authorities seek to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The national flag carrier said it would stop its six weekly flights between Ben-Gurion Airport and Hong Kong International Airport until March 20, and divert its resources to the European and North American markets.
Flights to Bangkok, the company added, will be reduced from a twice-daily service to once-daily on certain days.  
In addition, El Al said it would extend the existing freeze on flights to Beijing, the airline’s only mainland China destination, from March 25 until April 24. All flights were halted to the Chinese capital on January 30.
“We are regularly monitoring developments and reports from China and hope that the cautious optimism reflected in recent hours in the global media will indeed be realized in the coming days,” El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a statement.
“At the same time, the company is making commercial adjustments regarding the flight schedule to Far East destinations, and aircraft that will become available will be directed to reinforce the flight schedule to North America and Europe, with an emphasis on the Passover period.”
Customers seeking to change or cancel their flights to Hong Kong can do so without charge, El Al said.
The airline says it still plans to inaugurate non-stop flights to Tokyo “as scheduled” on March 11.
Early on Wednesday, the company updated the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it expects its revenues to decrease by approximately $30 million during the first quarter of 2020 due to the impact of the virus.
The carrier said revenues had been impacted by the virus, “primarily for destinations in the East.” Despite the expected drop in revenues, the company said it expects to offset the losses through a reduction in operating costs.
“The company is in contact with the relevant agencies and authorities in Israel and worldwide, and is continuing to monitor the issue on a regular basis,” the company told the stock exchange.
“Naturally, this is a developing event which is not under the control of the company, and factors including the continued spread or stopping of the virus, decisions taken by countries and relevant authorities in Israel and the world to stop or resume flights to various destinations or changes in demand, are likely to impact the company accordingly.”
On Sunday, the Health Ministry urged citizens to reconsider nonessential travel to various Southeast Asian destinations in an effort to prevent the spread of the viral epidemic into Israel.
Following a situational assessment, the ministry said citizens should reconsider plans to travel to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macao, South Korea and Taiwan. A warning regarding travel to China, the epicenter of the virus which has now killed 1,115 people by the end of Tuesday - all but two in China, has been in place since January 26.
Self-quarantine measures are only required for individuals arriving in Israel within two weeks of leaving China, according to instructions issued by the health ministry. Those in isolation should refrain from direct contact with family members.
While approximately 140 Israelis have been tested to date, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country.
The total number of infections in China rose by 2,015 on Tuesday to 44,653, authorities said. Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization in Geneva, which has declared a declaring a global health emergency, officially named the disease COVID-19, an abbreviation for CoronaVirus Disease, 2019. The Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has named the microbe itself which causes COVID-19 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.


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