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Coronavirus hammers Asian airlines as passenger numbers plummet

Disruption to regional travel exposes sector's underlying weaknesses

Malaysia's AirAsia Group, Asia's largest budget carrier, has been forced to suspend flights to key markets across the region including China, Japan and South Korea.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA -- Sharp falls in airline passenger numbers triggered by the rapid spread of the coronavirus will likely test the long-term viability of several Asian carriers already battling a long list of challenges.

Most vulnerable are those airlines which rely heavily on the Chinese market, such as Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways, Malaysia's AirAsia Group, Singapore's Scoot, Philippine Airlines, and Garuda Indonesia.

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