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Singapore Airlines cancels all flights to Milan till end-May following travel restrictions

Toh Ting Wei

The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Singapore  /  Fri, March 6, 2020  /  05:58 pm
Singapore Airlines cancels all flights to Milan till end-May following travel restrictions

Singapore Airlines A350-900 ULR aircraft on Changi International Airport in Singapore. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said on Friday that it has cancelled all flights to and from Milan till end-May, following restrictions imposed on travelers from northern Italy.

The cancellation comes two days after news emerged that a passenger who was later confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 had flown in to Singapore on the airline's SQ355 service from Milan.

This adds on to the slew of recent flight cancellations by SIA which will cut its capacity by 12.5 percent, compared with what it had originally scheduled from February to end-May.

SIA had announced significant flight cuts on Tuesday to several destinations, including Milan, South Korea and Japan, amid the growing spread of the coronavirus.

The carrier and other airlines around the world have been hard hit by the outbreak, with the International Air Transport Association (Iata) saying that it could cost airlines as much as US$113 billion (S$157 billion) in revenue this year.

Many would-be travelers are now avoiding or cancelling flights to all other countries, even to those with very few coronavirus cases.

An SIA spokesman said: "In view of the latest travel restrictions, all flights services to and from Milan have been cancelled from now till May 31."

The Milan-Malpensa Airport which SIA flies to is in the Lombardy administrative region in the northern Italy, and travelers from there would thus be affected by travel restrictions announced by the Ministry of Health.

Since 11.59 p.m. on Wednesday, all new visitors with recent travel history to Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through it. These areas have all been hit hard by the outbreak.

SIA had previously operated return flights to Milan daily.

Read also: COVID-19: Seat occupancy on flights to Bandung from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur drops 50%

One of these flights, the SQ377 service, which usually flies from Barcelona to Singapore with a layover at the Milan-Malpensa Airport three times weekly, had been converted into a direct flight since Wednesday.

SIA earlier said that this was due to the developing Covid-19 outbreak in northern Italy.

It also said that when flights are reinstated to Milan, there are plans to implement similar precautions to those taken for flights to mainland China.

These temporary measures include placing in-flight items on seats instead of giving them out during flights where possible and suspending in-flight sales.

Many other airlines worldwide have also announced significant flight cuts mainly due to falling demand from the coronavirus outbreak or to avoid travel to heavily affected areas.

For example, German airline Lufthansa has announced that it expects to reduce its flights by up to 25 per cent in the coming weeks.

One of Britain's biggest airlines, Flybe, collapsed on Thursday with all its flights grounded after its financial problems were compounded by the impact of the outbreak.

Separately, SIA said on Thursday that it has fogged an aircraft and taken extra measures to clean the SQ355 plane that had flown the Milan-Singapore route, after a passenger who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 was found to have traveled on the flight on Feb 24.

The passenger had landed at Changi Airport on Feb 25, where she transited to Air New Zealand flight NZ283, a code-share service with SIA which was also carrying SIA passengers, to fly to Auckland.

Air NZ said she was confirmed to have the infection on Wednesday.

Pilots and cabin crew on the SQ355 flight have been asked to go on a leave of absence and monitor their health. SIA is also working with relevant authorities to identify the passengers and crew who were on board the flight.

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This article appeared on The Straits Times newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post