March 12, 2020 / 3:33 PM / 2 months ago

RPT-UPDATE 1-Fastjet ready to cut flight schedules if coronavirus spreads in Africa

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March 12 (Reuters) - South African budget airliner Fastjet said on Thursday it plans to operate fewer flights if the coronavirus spreads across Africa.

South Africa reported the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus on Thursday, fuelling concerns that sub-Saharan African health systems could be overwhelmed if the virus spread accelerates.

Fastjet, which has been struggling to sell its Zimbabwe operations, said that it performed below its expectations in January and February due to excess capacity.

The cash-strapped airline said its Zimbabwe operations had already cut back on flights.

“The Group is prepared to enact further schedule reductions, if required, due to any escalation in confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus,” Fastjet said.

Sub-Saharan Africa has reported far fewer cases of coronavirus than in Europe or China, but some analysts worry it could spread rapidly in poor or overcrowded areas.

The company said it has cash to meet its needs up until June, subject to demand not being impacted by the outbreak.

European airlines have reeled under pressure from the threat of the coronavirus, with UK’s regional airline Flybe becoming the first to fall victim and collapse under its weight. (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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