Coronavirus Continues to Impact Travel Industry

Brandon Weathers
Updated: February 28, 2020 06:22 PM

According to the International Air Transport Association, the COVID-19 outbreak is expected to cost airlines near $30 billion in lost revenue.


The bulk of that will hit carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. Delta, United, and American Airlines have each suspended all flights to mainland China through late April. As the virus spreads to other parts of the world, flights are being suspended for travelers to South Korea and Italy.

Some travelers are canceling their own plans to avoid the risk of bringing the virus back home. Duluth resident Madeline Heikkila and her husband made the decision to cancel their trip to Tokyo that the two have been planning for years.

Heikkila said, “My husband lived in Japan for two years when he was in the air force, and when we got married, that was the number one place he wanted to bring me. The culture is great, the people are great, the food is amazing, so that was our dream trip ever since we got married.”

The two would be going to Japan in March, but they decided their dream trip isn't worth the risk of carrying COVID-19 back home.

Heikkila said, "Our discussion of 'Do we cancel it?' was really hard because it was when the CDC released this week that most of the world will be impacted, it's definitely coming to the U.S., it really sunk in, like, 'Do we want to be the ones to bring it back?' And the answer was very easily, 'no.'"

Heikkila said they were able to get a full refund from airlines and almost everything back from hotels. At the time they cancelled, the Heikkila's were told they would not be refunded for event tickets they had already bought, but most of the venues have since cancelled their events and promised refunds.

“We made the decision knowing that it was likely to lose a lot, and we just got lucky that Japan is essentially shutting down everything with big crowds so that we get our money back,” Heikkila said.

As for the travel industry as a whole, it's still unclear how quickly the industry will stabilize once the virus is contained. The figure of nearly $30 billion was calculated by the IATA based on how the industry was hit after the SARS epidemic. In that case, travel demand hit a sharp decline for about 6 months, but was followed by an equally quick recovery.


Brandon Weathers

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