March 6, 2020 / 9:18 AM / a month ago

Finnair sees passenger demand drop in February as coronavirus hits Asian traffic

(Reuters) - Finnair (FIA1S.HE) said on Friday it saw demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), drop 1.7% in February from a year earlier as the coronavirus outbreak deterred Asian travellers.

It was the first time Finnair had seen a monthly drop in RPK in years.

Due to its strong focus on Asian traffic Finnair is more exposed to the fallout from the virus than many of its European peers. On Asian routes RPKs fell 13.3% in February and passenger numbers dropped 14.8%, the airline said.

The traffic data was unveiled a day after Finnair said it had cancelled 1,100 flights because of the coronavirus outbreak, which it expects will have a bigger impact on its business than the outbreaks of SARS in Asia in 2003.

Separately, Finnair said it has decided to cancel several European flights on March 20-28 due to low bookings.

“Due to the high volume of reservation changes and the overall impacts of the coronavirus situation on bookings in March, we are cancelling several European flights between 20-28 March, as on these flights the number of customers is low,” it said.

On Wednesday, Finnair said it would open talks with unions next week about temporary staff layoffs and that it would cancel flights to mainland China, South Korea and Milan, Italy - areas that have been most affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus so far.

Shares in Finnair were 3.9% lower in early afternoon trading in Helsinki.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki in Tallinn; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans

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