UPDATED: More airlines suspend China flights as coronavirus hits demand

Jan 29, 2020

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LATEST UPDATE (Jan. 31, 2020): American, Delta, United suspend China flights as coronavirus fears rise

ORIGINAL POST: Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa are the latest airlines to suspend flights to China, amid a drop in demand associated with fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

Air Canada will suspend all service to Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from Jan. 30 to Feb. 29, it said Wednesday. The Star Alliance carrier flies to both Chinese cities from its Toronto Pearson (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR) hubs, as well as to Beijing from Montreal (YUL), according to Cirium schedule data.

American will suspend its daily flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and both Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong from Feb. 9 to March 27, spokeswoman Nichelle Tait told TPG Wednesday. The Oneworld alliance carrier will continue to serve the two Chinese cities from its Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) base.

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Delta will cut weekly frequencies on its six routes to China in half to 21 flights a week from Feb. 6 through April 30, the Atlanta-based carrier said Wednesday. The airline will continue to fly three- or four-times weekly between Beijing and Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA), and Shanghai and Atlanta (ATL), Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The schedule reductions do not impact Delta’s plan to move to Beijing Daxing airport (PKX) on March 28.

Lufthansa, along with its group siblings Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, will suspend all service to China until Feb. 9, spokesman Tal Muscal told TPG. Lufthansa serves five cities in China — Beijing Capital, Nanjing (NKG), Qingdao (TAO), Shanghai Pudong and Shenyang (SHE) — while both Austrian and Swiss serve Beijing and Shanghai, Cirium schedules show.

The airlines’ decisions to suspend flights follow similar moves by British Airways and United Airlines, the latter being the largest U.S. carrier to China.

On Thursday, two days after its initial capacity reductions, United announced what it calls a “second phase” of temporary flight suspensions. The Star Alliance carrier will begin reducing its four daily flights to Beijing to once daily, its three daily Hong Kong flights to daily, and its five daily Shanghai flights to 10 per week with the changes phasing in from Feb. 9 through Feb. 23. The latest reductions will remain in place through March 28.

United’s latest changes will see it temporarily serve Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai from only its San Francisco gateway, save for thrice-weekly service between Newark and Shanghai.

Coronavirus is the latest in several pandemics in the East Asia region since 2000. The most notable was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which hit the region in 2003. At SARS’ peak, traffic on Asia-Pacific airlines fell by more than a third, according to airline industry body IATA.

In a report Wednesday, Cowen analyst Helane Becker notes that travel between the U.S. and China dropped two-thirds during SARS but recovered quickly once the virus was contained.

The Chinese government said Wednesday that nearly 6,000 cases of coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, have been confirmed. Roughly 132 people have died from the virus.

Related: What the coronavirus means for travelers

Here is a list of the flight suspensions, as of Thursday, Jan. 30:

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

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

American: All flights between Los Angeles and both Beijing and Shanghai suspended from Feb. 9 to March 27.

Austrian: All China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

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

Delta: Reduce China frequencies by half to 21 flights per week from Feb. 6 to April 30.

Lufthansa: All China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

Swiss: All China flights suspended until Feb. 9.

United: 24 flights to China suspended from Feb. 1-8, then a wholesale reduction to 24 weekly frequencies from 12 daily flights (84 weekly) from Feb. 9-March 28. Reductions impact Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Virgin Atlantic: All China flights (Shanghai) suspended from Feb. 2-Feb. 16.

Myth-busting: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses on a plane?

This story will be updated as more airlines adjust schedules due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

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