Passenger volume at Taiwan airports drops more than 50%: CAA

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The volume of passengers handled at Taiwan’s airports last week fell by more than 50 percent compared with the same period last year, amid a global outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said Monday.

In the period Feb. 23-29, the volume of outbound and inbound passengers at Taiwan airports totaled 305,018, which was a 54.3 percent decline from the figure recorded in the last week of February 2019, the CAA said.

In addition, the CAA said, the number of international flights handled at all of Taiwan’s airports last week dropped 27.01 percent year-on-year, from 4,097 to 3,092.

There was a steep decline in the number of flights between Taiwan and South Korea, which totaled 212 in the week of Feb. 23, due to a cancellation rate of 59.77 percent, the CAA said.

While the decline in the number of flights between the two countries was only 10.7 percent year-on-year, passenger volume was down 69.57 percent from 14,719 in the same period last year, the CAA said.

The major contributing factor was Taiwan’s travel alert for South Korea, which the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) raised from Level 2 to its highest Level 3 on Feb. 24, due to an escalating outbreak of COVID-19 there, the CAA said.

In addition, under Taiwan’s current regulations to deal with COVID-19, all arriving passengers from South Korea are required to be quarantined for 14 days, the CAA noted.

It said passenger volume between Taiwan and two other neighboring countries — Japan and Singapore — also dropped last week, due to COVID-19 preventative efforts.

The number of travelers between Taiwan and Japan last week fell 59.07 percent year-on-year to 100,811, while between Taiwan and Singapore the decline was 47.48 percent to 18,483, the CAA said.

Meanwhile, the Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) said that in February alone it received 2,000 complaints, about 70 percent of which were from travelers inquiring about full refunds on tickets booked for trips to countries or regions unaffected by the coronavirus.

Typically, it takes a whole year for the association to receive that many complaints, TQAA Secretary-General Wu Mei-hui (吳美惠) said.

By June, the amount of money related to those kinds of complaints is likely to exceed NT$10 billion (US$332.6 million), she said.

Travel agencies, which are usually caught in the middle, are at risk because of the slowdown in cash flow, Wu said, forecasting the closure of about 500 travel agencies in Taiwan by the end of June if the coronavirus situation persists until then.

If the epidemic lasts into the second half of the year, more than 90 percent of Taiwan’s 3,900 travel agencies might be forced to close, she said.

As of Monday, more than 89,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 3,057 deaths had been reported worldwide.