The mainland's deepening Sars crisis has had a devastating impact on Dragonair, with airline insiders saying it is now carrying fewer than a thousand passengers a day. Dragonair sources said as a result of the crisis, the carrier's passenger numbers had fallen to just 700 to 800 a day, compared with the 10,000 to 13,000 passengers it averaged this time last year. Other sources close to Dragonair speculated the carrier was losing nearly US$1 million a day. It has access to about US$230 million in available funds through cash assets and financing. The worsening situation prompted Citic Pacific to say yesterday it, along with China National Aviation Co (CNAC) and Swire Group, which together form Dragonair's three largest shareholders, would be prepared to offer the carrier financial aid if and when it needed. Dragonair has been especially hard hit by the Sars outbreak in Greater China because of its focus on mainland and Taiwan routes. The carrier has already cut system-wide capacity by more than half since the crisis began in mid-March. 'The Sars fears have been devastating,' said a Dragonair official. 'Forward bookings are not looking much better.' Another senior Dragonair source said there was 'little hope for May and June'. But he was optimistic the crisis would not continue past the summer months. The carrier has already grounded nine of its 21 aircraft and has temporarily shelved a programme to upgrade the cabins of its Airbus A330 wide-body airliners. Dragonair's corporate communications manager Laura Crampton said: 'We need to conserve cash. 'We have already completed three cabin upgrades and will resume the programme at the appropriate time.' The airline had also deferred delivery of two Airbus A321 aircraft, originally scheduled for June and August, to the end of the year. Two more A320s scheduled for delivery next year had been deferred to 2005. Ten aircraft in its fleet were up for lease renewal next year and negotiations were ongoing as to their fate, Ms Crampton said.