Korean Air’s president, Woo Kee-hong, has painted a dire picture for the carrier in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

In an internal memo, he told employees that coronavirus-related travel restrictions led the airline to cut more than 80% of its international capacity, in contrast with 18% during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, according to a Reuters report.

Woo was quoted as saying: “We can easily imagine the severity of the crisis we are facing in comparison. And what is more daunting is that the situation can get worse at any time and we cannot even predict how long it will last.”

He added: “But if the situation continues for a longer period, we may reach the threshold where we cannot guarantee the company’s survival.”

Korean Air tells Cirium that the memo was meant for employees only but confirms the key points of his address: “We are facing challenges caused by COVID-19, and many of our operations have been disrupted.

“However, Korean Air is strong and resilient, and the company will keep the basic principle to minimise sacrifices of our employees.”

“We have gone through numerous difficulties for the past 51 years, and I’m confident that we overcome this crisis together.”

The airline also confirmed that it has grounded 100 of 145 passenger aircraft in its fleet. This includes ten Airbus A380s, which will remain out of service until 25 April.

It says: “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our policy accordingly, in order to ensure the safety and health of our passengers and to minimize customer’s inconvenience.”