ASIAN AIRLINES RESTORE FLIGHTS AS SARS FEAR EASES

Manila, June 6, 2003  Airlines all over Asia are preparing to restore 
flights following the easing of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 
(SARS) health scare, aviation industry executives in the region said Thursday.

Travel agencies said there has been a perceptible rise in bookings after 
recent developments indicated that the SARS epidemic was being put under 
control in the region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed Singapore from its list of 
areas with recent local transmissions of SARS following the delisting of 
Vietnam and the Philippines. Warnings against travel to Hong Kong and 
southern China's Guangdong province, which are still on the list of areas 
with recent infections, have also been lifted after they took steps to 
contain the spread of the virus.

The WHO, however, still advises against unnecessary travel to Taiwan and 
several areas in China.

Fear of catching the pneumonia-like disease has kept leisure and business 
travelers away from East Asia since March, battering related industries. 
The region accounts for most of the nearly 800 SARS deaths out of more than 
8,000 infections worldwide.

"I think you can say the worst is over given the (stable) SARS situaion 
now," SIA vice president for marketing Huang Cheng Eng said.

Malaysia Airlines said it would increase flights to Hong Kong gradually 
after the WHO lifted its a travel advisory on the territory. It had earlier 
trimmed its 12 weekly flights to Hong Kong to four.

South Korea's largest flag carrier Korean Air said it planned to restore 
from June 7 the route between Incheon and the Japanese city of Nagasaki, 
which was stopped in March.
In July, flight services would be restored between Dubai and Cairo but the 
company said it would watch the situation before resuming slashed flights 
to China and Southeast Asia.

A spokeswoman for Thai Airways said daily flights to North America, which 
have been reduced to thrice weekly, would resume from June 15.

Taiwan's leading air carrier China Ailines (CAL) said they have seen demand 
picking up.

"Believe it or not, our flights to and from the resorts of Phuket and Bali 
have been fully booked," CAL spokesman Roger Han told AFP in Taipei.

CAL capacity is currently down about 20 percent, compared with the peak 
reduction of 30 percent about two weeks ago.

Air China serviced 119 flights and 12,000 passengers out of Beijing 
International Airport on Tuesday, compared to only 45 flights and 2,055 
passengers on May 8, when the SARS scare reached its peak, state-run media 
said.

Australian flag carrier Qantas said it had no plans to restore capacity 
cuts announced last month.

Qantas cut its international capacity by almost 25 percent, returned three 
leased aircraft and deferred about a billion Australian dollars (650 
million US dollars) in capital expenditure.

Lisa Wong, spokeswoman for Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific, said 
the airline has no immediate plans to restore capacity cuts, saying: "We 
still believe the rebuilding of air travel comes step by step."

Japan Airlines spokeswoman Yoshie Otaka said travel from Asia to the South 
Pacific, United States, Europe and the Middle East is either at or above 
pre-SARS levels, he said.

At the same time, he cautioned that "as long as China and Taiwan are facing 
outbreaks, travelers from outside Asia may still feel uncomfortable 
returning to Asia."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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