Internet Travel With Context
January 30-February 21, 2020
Read all about it! As the Coronavirus worsens, airlines have slashed service to Hong Kong and mainland China. Hotel chains, retailers and food-service giants have closed locations. Airport lounges are being shuttered, a major tech show was cancelled and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics might be at risk. Here's how it's happening. New items are at the top; read up from the bottom for full context.

Coronavirus Update for February 21, 2020

The focus is still on people infected with Coronavirus, of course, but as the travel industry reports quarterly earnings, a fuller picture of the financial damage is emerging. Here are today's major developments:
        Hyatt revealed during its earnings call yesterday that 26 of its 80+ properties in China and Hong Kong are closed. Revenue per available room (revpar), a key measure of lodging profitability, is down 90 percent in China and 32 percent in the broader Asia-Pacific region. A 1 percent decline in revpar equals as much as $2 million in lost earnings, Hyatt added.
        Marriott says Bonvoy elite status will be automatically extended for one year for members in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Coronavirus Update for February 20, 2020

Airlines are beginning to count the cost of the Coronavirus as most have curtailed service to China and other parts of Asia. The financial hit could be hundreds of millions--or billions. Here are today's major developments:
        China may be forced to bail out its carriers as the Coronavirus has all but shut down air travel. There'll have to be cash injections as well as mergers, according to reporting from the South China Morning Post.
        Qantas has slashed its capacity to Asia by 16 percent. That covers Qantas-branded flights to/from China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its Jetstar subsidiary has cut Asia capacity by 14 percent. The hit on earnings? North of A$100 million (US$66 million) in 2020.
        Air France-KLM says it expects a financial hit of as much as 200 million euros ($216 million) by April if flights are grounded that long.
        Korea has reported its first Coronavirus death. About 20 cases have been reported in the city of Daegu. The mayor of the city of about 2.5 million have urged residents to stay home to avoid risk.

Coronavirus Update for February 19, 2020

The Coronavirus is mowing down travel, especially in Asia. Partially because Chinese tourism is so important to Asia's travel economies and partially because there are long-term and systemic effects whenever flights and hotels are closed. Here are today's developments:
        Marriott is waiving cancellation fees for travelers to and from Greater China through March 15.
        Hyatt is extending the elite status of its customers in the Asia/Pacific region.
        Singapore hotel occupancy has cratered. It was near 100 percent just before the Chinese New Year. According to the Straits Times hotel occupancy in the city-state fell below 50 percent during the week of February 9.
        Tokyo marathon officials say the Sunday, March 1, event will be limited to elite runners and elite wheelchair contestants. More than 30,000 runners had been accepted for the race. Their entry fees will not be refunded, but can be carried forward to the 2021 race.

Coronavirus Update for February 17, 2020

The depth of the damage that the Coronavirus is inflicting on China's aviation sector is surfacing. And more passengers on ships and aircraft have developed the disease. Here are today's developments:
        Delta Air Lines is trying to find passengers on its February 6 flight from Honolulu to Japan. Two passengers on that flight were later diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
        China aviation has essentially collapsed. Five weeks ago, according to OAG, China was the world's third-largest aviation market. Now it ranks 25th, after Portugal.
        London/Heathrow officials have quietly block-booked a hotel and are prepared to use it as a quarantine location if necessary. The Independent has the details.
        MS Westerdam, which was barred from making port in five countries before Cambodia allowed it to dock, did have passengers with the Coronavirus. The Associated Press has the latest developments on the ship, which generated worldwide publicity because of its inability to offload passengers.

Coronavirus Update for February 14, 2020

Needless to say, it isn't a happy Valentine's Day on the Coronavirus front. Blatant racism against Asian travelers is beginning to pick up. Here are today's sobering developments:
        London/Heathrow briefly detained a number of aircraft this morning after a United Airlines flight from San Francisco arrived with a passenger feeling unwell.
        KLM was forced to apologize after crewmembers on a flight to Seoul from Amsterdam posted a sign making the lavatory off-limits due to Coronavirus fears. But the sign was only in Korean, sparking the logical conclusion that the crew was attempting to keep Asians out of the lavs.
        Wyndham Hotels was forced to apologize after two of its Indiana hotels denied rooms to Asian customers. Once again, the staff claimed the selective activity was due to Coronavirus fears.
        Finnair and SAS Scandinavian have extended through March the suspension of most flights to China and Hong Kong.

Coronavirus Update for February 13, 2020

China says it is getting the Coronavirus under control, but the death toll and infection rate have spiked. And other nations are beginning to realize that the virus will be with them for quite some time. Here are today's developments:
        Hilton says it has closed 150 hotels in China. USA Today has details.
        Cathay Pacific is closing three of its five premium class lounges at its Hong Kong airport hub. The South China Morning Post has the story.
        Chinese airlines are not paying foreign pilots and cancelling employment contracts without notice because flights have been grounded.
        British Airways has cancelled one of its two daily London-Hong Kong runs. The suspension lasts until at least late April. BA already dumped its flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
        Tokyo's Olympics will go on, the organizers insist. But questions are being raised now, says the Associated Press.
        Rail traffic in China has collapsed since the Chinese government has quarantined huge parts of the country and told virtually everyone to stay home and avoid crowds.

Coronavirus Update for February 12, 2020

The death toll from the virus has now exceeded 1,300 and it has infected more than 60,000 worldwide. The vast majority of cases continues to be in China. Meanwhile, a Holland America cruise ship with no recorded cases of the illness has been turned away from five countries. It is currently anchored off the coast of Cambodia. Officials there say passengers and crew will be allowed to disembark tomorrow. Here are today's other developments:
        United Airlines now says it is extending the closure of its China routes, including Hong Kong, until late April.
        Singapore Airlines, which flies nonstop to Hong Kong from San Francisco, has cancelled that route through March. The carrier is also halving its service between its Changi hub and Hong Kong beginning next week.
        Mobile World Congress Barcelona, the largest mobile-phone show, has been cancelled. It was scheduled for February 24-27, but many major exhibitors were withdrawing as the Coronavirus spread. As recently as Sunday, show sponsors insisted the event would be held as scheduled.
        Vietnamese airlines have lost more than US$400 million in revenue due to Coronavirus. The reason? Much like the Vietnamese economy, the carriers depend on tourism from China, which has disappeared. Reuters has the details.

Coronavirus Update for February 11, 2020

As China continues to clamp down on information, it is clear the Chinese economy has ground to a halt. Businesses are mostly closed, employees are still at home and the Chinese government is still urging the nation to shelter in place. Meanwhile, that situation means an increasing number of airlines are extending their own China quarantines. Here are the latest developments:
        American Airlines now says it is extending the closure of its China routes, including Hong Kong, until late April.
        China Airlines and Mandarin Airlines, carriers based in Taiwan, have slashed their schedules through April 29. Many routes are completely cancelled and service to major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have been reduced to skeletal schedules.
        The superspreader, British businessman Steve Walsh, says he is cured. "Whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus," he said. Fox News has details.
        The Coronavirus now has an official moniker: COVID-19. NBC News explains its genesis.

Coronavirus Update for February 10, 2020

Doesn't matter if the Coronavirus infection rate is slowing down. The business just isn't there for airlines and the dominos keep falling.
        Air Canada has cancelled its China flights until at least March 27.
        Air France and KLM have extended their route curtailments and cancellations until March 15. Schedules are currently expected to return to normal--whatever that is--on March 29. Don't bet on it.
        British Airways has extended its China flight cancellations through March 31.

Coronavirus Update for February 9, 2020

Are you familiar with the concept of "superspreader?" That's a person who infects an outsized number of people with a disease, in this case the Coronavirus. If The Wall Street Journal is accurate, a British businessman attending a January conference at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore can be considered a Coronavirus superspreader. Stay tuned.

Coronavirus Update for February 8, 2020

The death toll from the Coronavirus in China (811) has now surpassed the number of deaths from the SARS virus more than a decade ago. The small silver lining? The mortality rate from Coronavirus is substantially lower than the SARS strain. Meanwhile, here's what's new today:
        Cathay Pacific has cancelled 52 percent of its February schedule. The cancellations in March are even higher: 57 percent or about 835 weekly flights across the main airline and its Cathay Dragon regional subsidiary. The heaviest cuts are from Hong Kong to China, where about 90 percent of flights have been dumped. One stunning example: Cathay had been running 91 weekly flights between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Now it is down to just seven. The figures were uncovered in a schedule analysis conducted by the South China Morning Post.
        Cruise lines have begun barring passage to travelers holding passports issued by China, Hong Kong or Macao.

Coronavirus Update for February 7, 2020

If the Chinese government is to be believed--Yeah, I know, what are the odds?--the Coronavirus is slowing down. What's not slowing down? It's crushing impact on travel. Here's what's new today:
        Canton Fair, China's preeminent trade venue, has cancelled shows until further notice. Dozens of other shows in Asia have been cancelled, too. Reuters has some of the details.
        Cruise lines continue to be virtual petri dishes for the Coronavirus. There are now more than 60 cases of the virus aboard the Princess Cruises ship quarantined off Yokohama, Japan. And both Guam and Japan have denied port to a Holland America ship that previously stopped in Hong Kong. USA Today has the story.
        Virgin Australia permanently cancelled its flights to Hong Kong. The airline's final Melbourne flight is Monday (February 10). Sydney service ends March 1. The cancellations are not directly related to the Coronavirus, however. Australia's second-largest carrier never established its Hong Kong flights and traffic has collapsed since democracy demonstrations began last year.

Coronavirus Update for February 6, 2020

Coronavirus events continue to overwhelm the travel industry, which has basically walled off travel to/from China. Here's what's new today:
        American Airlines has extended its suspension of LAX-Hong Kong service through March 27. Dallas/Fort Worth-Hong Kong flights are now suspended through February 20.
        KLM and Air France have extended flight cancellations to mainland China cities until March 15. The current plan is to resume flights to Beijing and Shanghai on alternate days from both Amsterdam and Paris/CDG hubs. Resumption of flights to other cities is not yet under consideration.
        World Dream, a cruise ship carrying 3,600 passengers and crew, is quarantined at Hong Kong's Kai Tak cruise port. Why? Three people onboard between January 19 and January 24 have contracted the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Update for February 5, 2020

China says it is making progress slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus, but traffic is plummeting as travelers avoid China and nearby areas. Here's what's new today:
        United Airlines now says its flights to Hong Kong will end February 8 for at least two weeks.
        Turkish Airlines, a Star Alliance carrier, has cancelled all flights from its Istanbul hub to China. The suspension lasts at least through February. The carrier had been cancelling flights on select days.
        Cathay Pacific has again slashed flights to China from its Hong Kong hub and continued to reduce service to international destinations. Meanwhile, it is asking staff to take three-week unpaid holidays. Details here
        MedJetAssist, the on-demand evacuation operation, says it cannot now offer evacuations or other services from China, Taiwan, Macao and Hong Kong.
        Diamond Princess, a cruise ship with more than 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew members, was quarantined today off the coast of Japan. Passengers are confined to their cabins after 20 cases of Coronavirus were detected.
        Bali is suffering now that Indonesia has banned flights--and thus tourist business--from China. But at least 5,000 Chinese tourists are stranded in Bali because they were not able to leave Indonesia before the flight ban was imposed.

Coronavirus Update for February 4, 2020

All fall down. That is the only way to describe what's happening now. Major airlines have basically abandoned flying to/from/within China. Hotels and railroads are closed or nearly empty. And things will get worse. Here are today's developments.
        American Airlines has now cancelled its flights to/from Hong Kong. The service suspension of those Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles routes will continue through at least late February.
        Cathay Pacific was already flailing because its traffic cratered as democracy demonstrations made Hong Kong a dicey visitor attraction. Now the city's flag carrier is dropping tranches of flights serving the mainland and pulling down regional and long-haul runs, too, as the Coronavirus devastates traffic. The South China Morning Post has the depressing details. In short, Cathay is cutting 30 percent of its global capacity and about 90 percent of its flights between Hong Kong and mainland China cities. As the paper notes, Cathay cut nearly half its global schedule during the 2003 SARS virus.
        Air China, a Star Alliance carrier, has told the U.S. Transportation Department that it is paring down to "critical ... essential" service. That means only a Beijing-LAX-San Francisco run and a Beijing-New York/JFK-Washington/Dulles route. It is asking DOT--U.S.-China routes remain relatively heavily regulated--for permission to fly this reduced service for 180 days.
        Macao hotels are half-empty, according to a report in the Macau News. Just a few weeks ago, the autonomous city was boasting hotel occupancy above 90 percent. And the Macao government has now ordered all of the city's casinos closed for at least two weeks. The government is urging residents to stay home except for grocery shopping.
        Railroads in the region are ending China links as well. Vietnam has closed its Hanoi-Nanning train and Russian railroads have ended all train service to China.

Coronavirus Update for February 3, 2020

As flights to and from mainland China continue to fall, what is also clear is that businesses are falling, too. Meanwhile, the few remaining travelers are being asked to jump through incredible hoops.
        OAG Aviation Worldwide, the airline-industry schedulekeeper, says there are 25,000 fewer flights to/from/within China this week compared to two weeks ago. Deep-dive numbers are gruesome.
        United Arab Emirates has ordered national airlines Emirates and Etihad to cut service to and from China. That has led both carriers to cut flights to Guangzhou and Shanghai beginning Wednesday (February 5). Beijing flights continue, but travelers are being asked to arrive at the airport eight hours before departure for additional screening and medical checks.
        Hainan Airlines, a putatively independent Chinese airline, says it has ended all North American routes. Hainan has pioneered flying to cities beyond Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and operates Boeing 787 Dreamliner nonstops to cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Changsha.
        Hong Kong hotels, which depend on tourism from China, are in crisis. After taking a pounding during the democracy demonstrations, which kept mainland Chinese visitors away, the Coronavirus is delivering another blow. According to the South China Morning Post, four in ten hotel workers could lose their jobs.
        Pattaya hotels are suffering, too. The Bangkok Post says hotel occupancy has fallen as low as 10 percent now that Chinese guests are not coming.
        Cruise lines will deny boarding to anyone who has traveled from or through mainland China in the previous 14 days. The announcement was made by the Cruise Lines International Association, the trade group of 50 cruise firms.

Coronavirus Update for February 2, 2020

It looks like the Great Chinese Flight Wall is beginning to crumble in the face of plummeting traffic due to the Coronavirus.
        China Southern and Air China have filed immediate schedule changes that drop many flights to/from the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain, and Eastern Europe. China Eastern suspended all nonstops to the United States. Expect more cancellations as traffic continues to evaporate. Chinese carriers probably won't end service completely--the Chinese government isn't likely to allow such a drastic measure--but logic dictates there'll be few flights still running by the end of the week.
        Emirates Airline, one of the few non-Chinese carriers running its full schedule into China, is now bowing to reality. Some frequencies into Beijing and Shanghai have been dropped and other routes and flights are getting smaller aircraft (usually a Boeing 777) to replace the Airbus A380.
        Department of Homeland Security has now slapped substantial on passengers who have visited China in recent weeks. For U.S. citizens it boils down to being prepared: If you have been in China recently, expect to be tested and possibly quarantined. And if you are not a U.S. citizen, be prepared to be denied entry if you've visited China lately. Full details are here.

Coronavirus Update for February 1, 2020

Every day brings more flight cancellations into China as traffic disappears. Here are today's updates:
        Delta Air Lines now says China flights will end tomorrow (February 2) rather than later in the week as originally announced.
        Qatar Airways says it will end its China flights on Monday (February 3) due to the "significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries." In other words, the seats are empty and no one is going to China now.

Coronavirus Update for January 31, 2020

As the Coronavirus spreads and more governments are affirmatively urging citizens to defer China travel, more airlines are dropping more flights. Some have now completely ended their China service. And don't think the flight suspensions are due to illness fears. This is about business--or, more accurately, the lack of it. Here are the latest developments.
        United Airlines has now cancelled all flights to China between February 6 and March 28. The airline had previously cut about half its schedule.
        American Airlines has now cancelled all flights to and from the China mainland immediately. The suspension will last until March 27.
        Delta Air Lines has now cancelled all flights to China starting February 6 and lasting through at least April 30. That is the longest flight cancellation to date.
        El Al has dropped its flights to Beijing between February 2 and March 25.

Coronavirus Update for January 30, 2020

The World Health Organization has done its bureaucratic duty and today declared a global health emergency over the Coronavirus. It doesn't mean much in the real world, of course, but the following developments today do:
        United Airlines has clarified details of its China flight cancellations. The largest U.S. carrier to China says San Francisco flights will continue, but all others are essentially cancelled. Three weekly LAX-Shanghai flights will also continue.
        American Airlines pilots have sued in a Texas court to force the carrier to halt all flights to China. The airline cut certain China routes yesterday, but it continues to fly several routes to the mainland and Hong Kong.
        The U.S. Government now officially says do not travel to China.
        British Airways has cancelled flights from London to Shanghai and Beijing until February 29.
        Finnair has spent several years developing Helsinki as a hub for Asia connections. But now it has cancelled its flights to Beijing and Nanjing through late March.
        SAS says it has cancelled all flights from Copenhagen to Shanghai and Beijing until late February.
        All Nippon Airways says February bookings for flights from China have fallen by half compared to February, 2019. Bookings to China from Japan for February have fallen by 60 percent.
        Singapore Airlines is cutting dozens of flights to China from its schedule through February.
        Cruise lines have begun dropping Hong Kong as a port of call. Most are substituting Singapore. Separately, the world's fifth-largest cruise ship, the Costa Smeralda, was locked down at Civitavecchia, Rome's cruise port. The issue? Two passengers from Macau were placed in confinement on board as officials watched for signs of the Coronavirus. The cases were not the virus, however, and the ship's more than 6,000 passengers were allowed to disembark.
        Russia has closed its 2,670-mile border with China in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus Update for January 29, 2020

Airlines continue to drop flights to China as traffic plummets and the Coronavirus crisis worsens. Here are today's developments:
        American Airlines says it will suspend its flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Los Angeles starting February 9. The closure will continue until at least March 27.
        Delta Air Lines says it will cut its 42 weekly China frequencies in half beginning February 6. At the moment, however, it promises to keep operating on all routes.
        Air Canada says all nonstop flights to China are cancelled effective Thursday (January 30). The service disruption will continue until at least February 29. The airline had previously said it would only cancel select flights.
        Lufthansa says it has cancelled all flights to mainland China. That includes all service operated by its subsidiaries Swiss International and Austrian Airlines, too. The flight ban continues until at least February 9. The carriers serve five cities on the mainland.
        Air France, KLM and British Airways say they are cancelling some frequencies on their China routes. All three carriers will continue to fly to the mainland for the time being.

No Coffee, Few Fries, No Meatballs

This must really be serious. Starbucks says it has closed more than half of its 4,300 coffeeshops in China. IKEA says all of its stores in the country are now closed. And McDonald's announced late Wednesday that it has closed all of its branches in Hubei Province, where the Coronavirus began. Expect more closures of major chains in the days ahead.

Hong Kong Cuts Ground Links to China

Hong Kong is cutting most of its ground links to China effective Thursday, January 30. That includes the extensive cross-border rail, bus and ferry service that operates between the city and the mainland. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam made the announcement wearing a face mask at Tuesday press briefing. Critics say the government isn't doing nearly enough to isolate the city from the mainland. Meanwhile, Mongolia and North Korea have closed their land borders with China. Papua New Guinea says it will not accept any traveler arriving from China.

Coronavirus Update for January 28, 2020

Here's an update on the travel situation to/from China as airlines and other travel providers react to the widening Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan in the Province of Hubei.
        United Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier to China, is halting most flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Citing a significant reduction of traffic on its routes, the airline says it'll slash two dozen flights to those cities beginning on Saturday (February 1). This includes most nonstops from its Newark, San Francisco, Chicago/O'Hare and Washington/Dulles hubs. Cancellations will last at least a week, United said. But expect longer disruptions due to the virus and virtually nonexistent travel from the United States.
        Air Canada is dropping select flights to China although it hasn't specified which of its 33 weekly nonstops will be cut.
        Cathay Pacific Airways, the Hong Kong carrier that offers extensive connecting service to the mainland, is slashing about half of its China schedule. Via its Dragon Pacific subsidiary, Cathay has been flying to more than two dozen cities on the mainland.
        China Airlines, the Taipei-based carrier, has dropped all flights to the mainland. It's also making in-flight service cuts to Hong Kong and Macau flights. Things such as hot meals, pillows and blankets and headphones are being eliminated in an attempt to limit potential items of contamination. EVA Air, also based in Taipei, is cutting some flights to China.
        The Centers for Disease Control says to avoid all non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to Hubei. The U.S. State Department has echoed the advice. Other countries are recommending similar discretion.
        The U.S. State Department is considering an airlift to evacuate American citizens out of the country. If you are currently in China, make sure you have registered at the U.S. Embassy. You can register your presence here. Do not go to any U.S. Embassy or Consulate in China because they are closed through Friday. (The reason: the Chinese government has "extended" the Lunar New Year holiday through Sunday, February 2, in an attempt to keep people home and minimize crowds during what normally would have been the busiest holiday travel period of the year.)

Tight Connections ... Early Warnings for 1/23/2020

Let's be honest. You know nothing about the Coronavirus. You have little or no idea about Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the disease seems to have originated. You're concerned about traveling because this sounds suspiciously like the SARS pandemic of 2003-2004. And fast-moving stories like this seem much harder than ever to follow. Fear not. Here are some basic details and important links. I'll continue updating this section as needed in the days ahead.
        Here is the Centers for Disease Control backgrounder on the Coronavirus. It offers advice for protecting yourself at home and on the road. And here is what the World Health Organization says.
        Here is what you need to know about Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, a London-sized city with a population of more than 11 million.
        Here's a BBC story on the decision to essentially quarantine Wuhan and ban most travel to, from, through and around the city. That is especially onerous given that this weekend is the Lunar New Year, the busiest travel period of the year in China. And the South China Morning Post reports three other cities in Hubei Province also have been locked down.
        Many hotel chains are now waiving change and cancellation fees for China bookings.
        Here is a Bloomberg piece about how airlines and airports are dealing with the Coronavirus.