REFILE-American Airlines says too early to tell Zika's impact on travel

viernes 29 de enero de 2016 13:06 GYT

(Clarifies attribution of commentary in paragraph 3)

By Jeffrey Dastin

NEW YORK Jan 29 (Reuters) - American Airlines' president on Friday said it is too early to tell if the rapidly spreading Zika virus will impact travel, but so far the airline has seen no material change to flight bookings.

American Airlines Group Inc, the world's largest airline, and other U.S. carriers are facing mounting concern about the mosquito-borne virus as investors mull a slump in demand to the Caribbean and other tourist hotspots.

Zika could put a further dent in revenues for American, which has the widest Latin American network among U.S. airlines. American's President Scott Kirby said on a call with investors Friday that flight sales to Brazil had fallen to about 2.0 percent of its revenue from about 6.0 percent in roughly the past two years.

While airlines have yet to report a bookings drop because of Zika, a warning from the World Health Organization that four million people in the Americas could get the virus has exacerbated jitters for the travel industry, hurt by outbreaks of SARS and Ebola in years past.

"People incrementally are starting to pay a little more attention to Zika than they were before," said Sterne Agee CRT analyst Adam Hackel. "(They) freak out when it comes to airlines."

New York-traded airline stocks dropped 3.1 percent Thursday, which analysts attributed to Zika fears and an uptick in oil prices, before rebounding 1.6 percent in Friday morning trade.

American saw the sector's biggest stock decline Friday with shares falling more than 1.0 percent. It forecast a passenger unit revenue decline in the first quarter between 6.0 percent and 8.0 percent, not accounting for any potential Zika impact.   Continuación...