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SARS Still Hurting Asian Airlines - 2003-05-26


Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong warns Singapore Airlines could lose as much as $580 million this year. The Singapore Straits-Times quoted Mr. Goh as saying the airline's situation is an "emergency."

Fears over Asia's outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, have caused airline traffic to plummet in the region. Singapore Airlines management was to meet with the pilot's union to discuss having staff take unpaid leave to cut costs.

The World Health Organization says it now is safe for tourists and business people to visit Hong Kong, and the city's Airport Authority has announced a $12.8 million campaign to woo airlines back. The SARS outbreak cut air passenger numbers by as much as 80 percent in Hong Kong, and dozens of flights have been canceled each day since March.

But Tony Concil, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, said it could many months before things return to normal. "For us to say one day it's perfectly fine after saying the previous day you should curtail all but essential travel - it's going to take a while before that perception sinks in," he said. "And that will depend on what the situation in Hong Kong is like, and what the situation in Asia is like."

In Taiwan, the government says exports rose by 4.56 percent in April, year on year. Taiwan leaders say the quick end to the Iraq war spurred demand from the United States, which is buying items needed for Iraq's reconstruction.

Vietnam is seeking international capital to help fund a nationwide mobile phone network. Vietnam Army Telecommunications Company, or Vietel, plans to spend $100 million on infrastructure by 2005. It is the first time the company has opened the door to foreign investors.

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