Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Airlines reroute flights, suspend services

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Garuda Airlines said on Thursday it had rerouted flights to Europe to avoid the war in Iraq, and was considering imposing a surcharge on passengers.

Other airlines in Asia have also taken similar action, while Singapore Airlines has suspended and cut back services to many big cities across the world.

Garuda spokesperson Pujobroto told The Jakarta Post that a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam transited in Singapore and Bangkok Wednesday night, and took a route south of the crisis area in the Middle East. Normally, the airline only makes one stopover in Singapore.

"For the time being, our contingency plan involves taking a safer but longer route. Therefore, the plane needs to land in Bangkok to refuel," he explained.

He said the next flight to Amsterdam would be on Saturday and the flight route had yet to be decided on.

He said that Garuda was still maintaining its services to Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but the continuation of these services would depend on developments in the war, he said.

Should the war be prolonged, Garuda would probably suspend some routes temporarily due to possible increases in fuel prices, additional risks and a drop in the number of passengers.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it would suspend 65 weekly services to key U.S. and European routes and to Mauritius as part of a cutback in flights due to the Middle East conflict, AFP reported.

The changes to the flight services will take effect from late March, it said in a statement.

The frequency of flights to key Asian cities will also be reduced, SIA said.

"Singapore Airlines wishes to advise that it will implement a series of reductions from late March in response to softening demand in the past few weeks attributed to concern about the situation in the Middle East," SIA said.

"A total of 65 services per week will be suspended," it announced.

On its U.S. routes, the carrier will suspend all flights to Las Vegas and Chicago from April 7 to May 31.

It will cut services to San Francisco from 14 to 10 weekly from April 9 to May 31, Los Angeles from 14 to 12 from April 7 to May 31, and New York from 11 to nine from April 6 to May 31.

SIA flights to the European cities of Brussels and Madrid will be suspended from March 30 to May 31, while Frankfurt flights will be reduced by two to 12 weekly services from April 6 to May 31 and weekly services to Manchester will be trimmed by one to six from April 7 to May 31.

SIA's flight suspension to Mauritius will last from April 15 to May 31, the carrier said.

Flight frequencies to key Asian routes will also be slashed, including major destinations Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei and the Japanese cities of Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Nagoya, the carrier said.

Earlier, the carrier said it had begun re-routing flights to the Middle East and Europe to avoid the war in Iraq and imposed a war surcharge on cargo.

SIA subsidiary SIA Cargo said in a separate statement it would levy a war surcharge of 25 U.S. cents a kilogram for shipments to affected areas and was also implementing "a range of heightened security procedures."

It cited the "increasing cost of security, insurance and related issues" for the new charge, which is in addition to a 20- cent a kilogram levy imposed earlier this month due to a rise in fuel prices.

In Hong Kong, flag carrier Cathay Pacific said that all of its flights between Hong Kong and Europe were now flying routes over China and Russia due to the Iraq war.

Cathay Pacific Airways has also recently temporarily adjusted its twice-weekly Riyadh flight to stop over in Dubai instead of Bahrain due to the expected downturn in business.

"Cathay Pacific is closely monitoring developments, and flights bound for the Middle East will be adjusted, depending on the situation," as it continues to maintain its 20 flights a week to the Gulf to Bahrain, Riyadh and Dubai, it said.