Shares in the international and budget airlines were left grounded by fears the coronavirus outbreak is morphing into a pandemic threat to travel.
Worst affected was easyJet, which saw 11.4%, or £680mln wiped from its value after Italy went into lock-down mode as it tried to contain the spread of the flu-like illness.
With 152 cases, it is the worst affected country in the EU, though there are reports that neighbours such as Austria may be ready to close their borders.
9% of traffic
Italy itself is responsible 9% of air travel in the European Economic Area – in other words it is an important destination for the low-cost firms already grappling with fleet problems associated with Boeing’s 737 Max.
IATA, the airline body, estimated international carriers had already lost US$29.3bn in revenues, with worst affected being the Asia-Pacific long-haul companies, taking US$27.8bn of that hit.
By February 20 the rest of the world – US, European and Gulf airlines – had essentially escaped scot-free, with a US$1.5bn hit
Costs rising daily
“We expect [that figure] to rise with the spread of the virus to Italy, with demand for travel from North America likely to soften, which would hit IAG in particular as it is heavily reliant of trans-Atlantic routes,” said City broker Peel Hunt in a note to clients.
Shares in British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) reflected this lingering worry, descending 7.2% in a bloody session.