Coronavirus could cost African airlines $40m

The coronavirus epidemic could cost African airlines tens of millions of dollars in revenue this year, a global industry body has said, in a potentially devastating hit to often struggling airlines that count on lucrative Chinese routes to fund their expansion.

Airlines around the world have suspended or modified flights amid the outbreak, which began in mainland China at the end of last year and has now spread to more than 60 countries worldwide.

The global cost to the aviation industry is projected to be $29 billion this year, the International Air Transport Association has said and at a conference in Addis Ababa on Wednesday (March 4), the organization's special envoy to Africa said African airlines face a hit of as much as $40 million.

The IATA had already forecast, before the outbreak, that African airlines would make a loss of around $200 million this year.

Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive of the continent's biggest carrier Ethiopia Airlines, said the company had seen air travel demand decline by 20%.

His airline has faced criticism online for not canceling flights to China as Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda have done.

On Tuesday (March 3), Kenya also halted direct flights from two cities in northern Italy - the location of the biggest cluster of coronavirus cases in Europe.