Airlines plunge as Italian coronavirus outbreak threatens longer crisis

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* Virus spread threatens summer travel

* Consumer fears seen weighing on airlines

* Spare capacity could also hit profit

By Laurence Frost and Alistair Smout

PARIS/LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) – European budget airlines bore the brunt of Monday’s plunge in global stock markets as the arrival of the coronavirus in Italy pointed to a longer, deeper crisis than many have banked on.

EasyJet dropped 16.4% and Ryanair 13.5% as airlines were forced to reassess the fallout from the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across Asia and beyond, with South Korea, Italy and Iran now struggling to contain outbreaks.

Although airlines have yet to suspend any Italian flights, the new outbreaks raised the spectre of serious upheaval extending into the lucrative summer tourism…

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