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Airfares soar 174% as Chinese rush to escape virus in Europe

03/17/2020| 4:45:43 PM|

The average price of a one-way economy ticket from the U.S. to China rose 137%.

Cambridge University student James Shen didn’t hesitate to pay double for a business-class ticket to fly to China last Friday, deciding it would be safer there than in the U.K. as the coronavirus spreads in Europe.

"I feel much more protected here,” Shen said after arriving home in Suzhou, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) west of Shanghai. “In the U.K, when I tell people how serious the outbreak is, people laugh at me and say I’m overreacting to a flu. But as Chinese people, we have vivid memories about SARS and what just happened in Wuhan.”

Shen, a 23-year-old master’s student, said he paid about 40,000 yuan ($5,700) for his return ticket. Prices have climbed further in recent days or availability has disappeared altogether. Travel agency Trip.com Group isn’t offering any seats on direct flights from London to Shanghai until April 13, while a one-way China Eastern Airlines ticket on that day is available at 26,928 yuan on Skyscanner. Data from Qunar.com show the average price of a one-way economy ticket from Europe to China shot up 174% in the week through Sunday, from 5,492 yuan to 15,021 yuan. Those from the U.S. rose 137%.

Cathay Pacific Airways said it is reinstating some flights from the U.S. and London to cater to growing demand from students overseas and others wanting to return to Hong Kong ahead of Easter holidays. It will also use aircraft with more seats on several flights from the U.S., which has declared a national emergency because of the virus. The carrier said Monday it would add three more flights from London on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, bringing the total to nine extra flights from the U.K. capital this week.

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TAGS: airfare | Europe
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