Impact on airlines 'unlikely to be severe'

Impact of Mers is not expected to be serious if the South Korean authorities can control its spread.

Some have cancelled plans to travel to South Korea in fear of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), but experts said it is too early to tell if the Korean outbreak will hit the aviation industry here badly.

Analysts at OCBC Investment Research said the impact of Mers on the aviation business looks to be short term and limited to South Korea.

"Also, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has yet to recommend any curbs on travel or trade as a result of the Mers outbreak in South Korea," they said.

Associate Professor Terence Fan, a transport specialist from the Singapore Management University, said the impact of Mers is not expected to be serious if the South Korean authorities can control its spread.

"Even during the time of Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), it wasn't until the chain of infection started accelerating that public fear set in," he said. The Sars outbreak here in 2003 led to 33 deaths.

In South Korea, Mers has infected 126 people and killed 11 since the outbreak began there about three weeks ago.

Prof Fan said airlines can ensure that their planes are cleaned thoroughly to minimise any potential spread of diseases.

While the impact on the aviation industry here is unlikely to be severe for now, airlines may see their business dip as a result of the postponement of non-essential travel, he added.

The Straits Times earlier reported that 15 to 20 CTC Travel customers bound for South Korea had called off their trips.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific said it has been receiving more requests from customers in Singapore for cancellations or changes to their flights to South Korea. The carrier has also seen a drop in bookings from Hong Kong to South Korean destinations.

Singapore Airlines declined to provide ticketing trends but announced on Wednesday that it would waive cancellation fees and fees for the refunding, rebooking or re-routing of flights to Seoul.


This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.