Virgin Australia on Thursday became the first international airline to completely withdraw all its services between Australia and Hong Kong amid the coronavirus outbreak while announcing that the route was no longer commercially viable.
The company said it had undertaken a comprehensive review of the routes, and confirmed that it would halt service on the Sydney-Hong Kong route on March 2, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
Last November, the airline, deemed to be one of Australia’s largest, proposed the suspension of the Melbourne-Hong Kong route due to financial losses, and on Thursday confirmed that the last flight would take place on February 11.
The performance of the route had declined following the anti-government protests in Hong Kong that began in June 2019, and was expected to be further impacted by the growing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis, the airline added.
“Hong Kong has continued to be a challenging market. With a decline in demand following ongoing civil unrest, and growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in the wider region, we have made the decision to withdraw services,” the South China Morning Post reported citing Virgin Australia Group Chief Commercial Officer John MacLeod as saying.
“Current circumstances demonstrate that Hong Kong is no longer a commercially viable route for Virgin Australia to continue operating, however international tourism remains an important part of our strategy through our other international routes and partner airlines.”
The airline added that it would make alternative arrangements for customers already booked on affected flights.
Thursday’s development comes after the US’s United Airlines said on Tuesday that it will suspend all flights to and from Hong Kong, meaning no American carriers will be flying passenger flights to the city after this week.
The decision follows a similar announcement by American Airlines, which has also suspended all flights to Hong Kong from Los Angeles and Dallas for about two weeks, citing a lack of demand, amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has so far killed 563 people in China, with one death each in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Overall more than 30 global airlines have halted flights to and from mainland China as coronavirus infections continue to soar.