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Allegiant Air able to fly above the coronavirus turbulence


David Becker / AP

Mon, Mar 9, 2020 (2 a.m.)

As the aviation industry braces for financial uncertainty out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus, officials at a Las Vegas-based domestic carrier say they haven’t felt the downturn. It’s business as usual for Allegiant Air, they say.

Allegiant has not been affected by the coronavirus and has received only a handful of customer inquiries to cancel or reschedule travel plans, spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said. Grey suspects it’s because the airline flies exclusively domestic, nonstop routes, thus avoiding service to or from highly affected regions such as Asia.

“We don’t codeshare or partner with other airlines so we don’t see any international, connecting flights,” she said.

The carrier said it hasn't suspended any scheduled flights or routes over coronavirus fears.

The death toll in the United States from the outbreak was at 22 as of Sunday, with more than 500 confirmed cases. More than 100,000 have been infected worldwide.

Grey said the airline is in contact with the Southern Nevada Health District and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on prevention guidelines and instructions. Grey said the airline will re-accommodate passengers with no added fees and provide full credit to passengers who are concerned about the virus.

The rest of the aviation industry hasn’t been so fortunate, as there are stories of empty flights and airports across the globe. Airline shares collectively are down about 30% since Jan. 20 when the first coronavirus case emerged outside of China, as the prospect of flight cancellations and the loss of sales are overwhelming.

United Airlines became the first U.S. airline to announce widespread cuts to domestic service on Wednesday in a letter to employees, amid fears over the virus affecting ticket sales. Flights across the U.S. and Canada will be reduced by 10% in April, with additional reductions planned for May, according to the letter.

Southwest Airlines cut its revenue expectations for the quarter up to $300 million, according to the Associated Press. “In recent days, the company has experienced a significant decline in customer demand, as well as an increase in trip cancellations, which is assumed to be attributable to concerns relating to reported cases of COVID-19,” the company said Thursday in a regulatory filing.

The International Air Travel Association noted that the spread of the virus could cost airlines as much as $113 billion in lost revenue.

Other airlines have announced measures to keep cabins clean in an effort to mitigate potential virus spread. Hawaiian Airlines, for example, cleans its cabins through “high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters,” which officials say creates a dry and sterile environment, deeming the area inhospitable for virus growth.

Southwest Airlines announced on its blog that the airline uses “EPA-approved, hospital-grade disinfectant” inside the lavatories as well as an interior cleaner for the cabin.

"As a reminder, aircraft are also tidied up between flights during the day, and we equip all our aircraft with HEPA filters, which filters out recirculated air on-board each plane to remove airborne particles,” the blog post states.

McCarran International Airport announced Thursday that it is working closely with the Southern Nevada Health District and the CDC to monitor the virus and that, so far, the airport is not being told to conduct any coronavirus screening.

Airport spokesman Joseph Rajchel said the airport’s custodial teams are using “hospital-grade disinfectant” on high-touch surfaces around the airport like kiosks, escalators and door handles, adding that this practice is not a new precaution, and something McCarran does every flu season.

“With the emergence of the coronavirus in Clark County, we have increased the frequency of application and expanded the areas of the airport that are covered,” he said. “The disinfectant in use is recommended by the CDC to combat COVID-19 and is being applied in the highest concentration for maximum impact.”

The Health District announced Clark County’s first presumptive positive case of coronavirus on Thursday, in a man in his 50s. The man, who has underlying medical conditions, is currently hospitalized and in airborne isolation. He was in serious condition as of Friday. While the test still needed to be confirmed by the CDC, presumptive positive results are included in the total reported cases by the CDC. The total number of cases in the U.S. surpassed 250 on Friday.

The man told health officials he recently traveled to Washington state, where there has been community spread of the virus. He was also recently in Texas, which just reported its first travel-associated case.

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