By
Paul Norris

ASIA’s airlines are calling for urgent
help from governments and the aviation industry as they struggle to cope with
the effects of the SARS virus.

In
a desperate letter to members, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said
severe acute respiratory syndrome has had a “devastating effect” on carriers
and the “dire situation” has to be recognised by regulators, airports and
aircraft manufacturers.

Director-general
Richard Stirland said: “People have simply stopped travelling, or worse been
prevented from travelling by government action. Some members have slashed up to
50% of their frequencies.”

He
called on airports to reduce charges, governments to take responsibility for
insurance and security charges and suppliers to be sympathetic with prices.

AAPA
member Cathay Pacific, one of 17 airlines in the group, has already cancelled
42% of its schedule as passengers stop travelling to its Hong Kong base, with
the carrier warning staff it could be grounded if the virus continues.