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UPDATED: American, Delta, United suspend China flights as coronavirus fears rise

Jan. 31, 2020
4 min read
UPDATED: American, Delta, United suspend China flights as coronavirus fears rise
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The big three U.S. carriers have taken the unprecedented move of suspending all service to mainland China amid rising fears over the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines will cancel all of its flights to Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) effective immediately, the carrier said Friday. The suspension of its four daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX) will continue through March 27.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines will suspend its six daily flights to China from Feb. 2 -- four days earlier than previously planned -- through April 30, the airline said Saturday. The SkyTeam Alliance member operates two daily flights to Beijing and four daily flights to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle (SEA).

Chicago-based United Airlines will halt its nine daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai, and thrice-weekly service to Chengdu (CTU), from Feb. 6 through March 28, it said Friday. The Star Alliance carrier will continue to serve Hong Kong (HKG) once daily from San Francisco (SFO) during the period.

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All three carriers cite the U.S. State Department's decision Thursday to raise its travel advisory for China to a Level 4, or Do Not Travel.

The announcements follow earlier schedule reductions by American, Delta and United. American planned to cancel just its flights between Los Angeles and China; Delta cut its schedule in half, to 21 flights per week, but maintain service on all of routes; and United slash schedule by more than two-thirds to just select flights between China and Newark (EWR) and San Francisco.

American's decision to suspend all of its China flights comes a day after its pilots union the Allied Pilots Association sued the carrier Thursday seeking an immediate suspension to all of its Beijing and Shanghai flights.

Coronavirus continues to spread in China. As of Friday morning, there were nearly 10,000 confirmed cases in the country, with estimates expecting infection to peak at about 40,000 people, according to Cowen analyst Kevin Kopelman, who cited National Health Commission of China data.

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While the number of people infected with coronavirus now exceeds the 8,000 globally that came down with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, the mortality rate at just 2.2% is far lower than the past outbreak, wrote Kopelman. The mortality rate with SARS was around 10%.

Brett Snyder, founder of the Cranky Concierge travel service and author of the Cranky Flier blog, noted Thursday that the suspensions by U.S. airlines are likely based on public perception of the outbreak and an associated drop in demand, more than actual concerns over the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coroanvirus outbreak a global emergency on Thursday.

Here is a list of notable airline flight suspensions, as of Friday, Jan. 31:

Air Canada: All mainland China flights suspended from Jan. 30-Feb. 29.

Air France: All mainland China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

American: All flights to mainland China suspended through March 27.

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Austrian Airlines: All mainland China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

British Airways: All mainland China flights suspended until Jan. 31, situation will be reassessed at that time.

Delta: All mainland China flights suspended from Feb. 2 to April 30.

Lufthansa: All mainland China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

Swiss: All mainland China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

United: All mainland China flights suspended from Feb. 6 to March 28. Hong Kong reduced to once daily service from San Francisco.

Virgin Atlantic: All mainland China flights suspended from Feb. 2-Feb. 16.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images