Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications has set aside TWD4.2 billion Taiwan new dollars (USD140 million) to assist the country's aviation industry if the Covid-19 outbreak worsens, minister Chia-lung Lin said at the Legislative Yuan (parliament) on March 4.

The budget is aimed at subsidising airlines' landing fees and use of airport facilities, the minister said, according to the country's Central News Agency.

"The aviation industry is being hard hit by the epidemic. It is the biggest victim," Lin said, adding that the industry as a whole, including airport operators and duty-free stores, were suffering.

The sum for the budget was calculated so that it would subsidise 25% of airlines' airport fees, to make up for an estimated 25% drop in traffic because of the outbreak, a policy advisor at the ministry told the news agency. Subsidies were opted for rather than fee exemptions to keep Taiwan's airports funded and performing well, he explained.

It is not clear when the measure will take effect or how much relief it will provide for Taiwan's airlines. China Airlines (CI, Taipei Taoyuan) has cancelled 6,500 flights for February, March, and April, the carrier's human resources department said in an open letter to to the company's 10,000 employees, describing the impact of the epidemic on its finances as an "avalanche", United Daily News reported on March 3.

China Airlines has already cut salaries for executives by 10% and has urged employees to take special leave.

"Even when the epidemic ends, the company will need more time to recover than in the past," the letter said, referring to the SARS epidemic in 2003.

Other scheduled operators active in Taiwan include Mandarin Airlines (AE, Taichung Ching Chuan Kang), EVA Air (BR, Taipei Taoyuan), Uni Air (B7, Taipei Sung Shan), Starlux Airlines (JX, Taipei Taoyuan), Tigerair Taiwan (IT, Taipei Taoyuan), and Daily Air (Taipei Sung Shan).