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QZ ESSAY

Coronavirus is spreading turbulence in the airline industry

Flybe is among the airlines hurt by coronavirus.
REUTERS/Phil Noble
RIP, Flybe.
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate reporter

Airlines were finally flying high. Lower fuel costs, robust balance sheets, and a roaring economy have recently propelled profits in an industry more accustomed to bankruptcies.

But the coronavirus threatens to bring that crashing down.

On March 5, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) doubled its estimated impact from Covid-19 to at least $63 billionโ€”$113 billion should the disease continue spreading. Airlines flying in Asia, home to the outbreakโ€™s epicenter, have already cut available seat miles by 23% this month, according to consulting firm Oliver Wyman. As the outbreak intensifies, other regions are making similar cuts, with only Africa and Latin America (where minimal cases have been reported) so far unscathed.

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