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Coronavirus is battering the airline industry, turning some airports into ghost towns

Airline executives met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss a response to the coronavirus.
Image: Seattle-tacoma International Airport
A pair of workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport wear masks on March 3, 2020.Elaine Thompson / AP

Some of the world’s busiest airports now look like ghost towns as the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 90,000 people, continues to spread around the world.

Passengers who are choosing to travel are sharing photos on social media showing once bustling airports that are nearly empty.

Paul Huang, a freelance journalist, shared photos on Twitter showing an airport in Taiwan and the lounge area without another person in sight.

“Taiwan's #TPE airport is dead, like, dead. Saw zero passenger besides me through T1 check-in, security, customs, CX lounge,” he wrote, referring to the Taoyuan International Airport west of Taipei.

Halfway around the world, in Zurich, another Twitter user reported that the airport was nearly empty at 5:30 p.m. local time Wednesday.

In San Francisco, some people reported the airport seemed quieter than usual, with passengers looking at one another any time a person coughs or sneezes.

The deadly outbreak has prompted many companies to put a moratorium on business travel, while other travelers are opting to cancel trips to avoid the risk of infection.

Global carriers, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, have suspended flights to China, but have also made cuts to other routes in Asia. Cathay Pacific said it would reduce 40 percent of its capacity and suspend routes from Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., along with some destinations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. United announced Wednesday it would trim 20 percent of its international routes.

On Wednesday, U.S. airline executives met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House to discuss their response to the coronavirus, but stopped short of asking for any financial assistance as the travel industry continues to take a beating.

“Don’t ask that question please, because they haven’t asked it,” Trump said, when asked if he planned to offer help to U.S. airlines. He added that he didn’t want to give the CEOs in the room “any ideas.”

Airline stocks have tumbled to multiyear lows as a result of the outbreak.