Almost a quarter of scheduled flights were cancelled on Wednesday at Brussels Airport, mainly due to the epidemic of the new coronavirus. A similar number of flights had already been cancelled on Tuesday.
The flights to Italy have been especially affected: Brussels Airlines, for example, operated only a handful of flights on Wednesday and cancelled all flights from Thursday. Ryanair has made a similar decision yesterday and many other airlines are expected to follow suit in the coming days or weeks. On Wednesday, only a third of the flights are operated from and to the Italian peninsula.
Another destination with a sharp decrease in the number of flights is China (including Hong Kong). But cancellations are affecting all destinations: Brussels Airlines has already cancelled 23% of its flights and is ready to cut more. The Lufthansa Group (comprising also SWISS and Austrian Airlines) expects to cancel up to 50% of its flights.
Most of the cancellations are linked to the coronavirus epidemic. Demand has declined due to the spread of the virus, especially for business travel. Moreover, many flights have low load factors after leisure travellers do not show up at the airport. Compounding the problem, bookings are very low and don’t compensate the no-shows.
The impact of the coronavirus was still quite limited in February. The airport had even been able to announce a 6% increase in the number of passengers compared to last year. But that was due to the fact that 2020 is a leap year and that the mid-term break fell in the middle of the month. Otherwise, growth would have been negative, said Brussels Airport, which adds that the first indications for March point towards a substantial decline in passenger numbers, particularly in the lucrative business travel segment.
Against this background, Brussels Airport is ramping up its efforts to inform, sensitise and prepare all of the airport’s stakeholders, in keeping with the directives issued by the Federal Public Service “Public Health”.
During a normal weekday, around 600 flights (300 departures and 300 arrivals) are operated at Brussels Airport.