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Coronavirus: AA, United suspend Hong Kong flights, Cathay Pacific trims China capacity

Feb. 04, 2020
4 min read
Coronavirus: AA, United suspend Hong Kong flights, Cathay Pacific trims China capacity
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Cathay Pacific Airways is slashing capacity by nearly a third as flight suspensions due to rising fears of the coronavirus outbreak spread to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong-based carrier's decision to suspend flights comes as passenger numbers have plummeted by half, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday. Capacity to mainland China will be cut by 90%.

Cathay Pacific is not alone in suspending flights. Fellow Oneworld partner American Airlines has suspended its daily flight between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Hong Kong (HKG) through Feb. 20, and its daily service between Los Angeles (LAX) and Hong Kong through March 27, American said Thursday. It previously planned to resume both routes on Feb. 21.

In-depth: What does the coronavirus outbreak mean for travelers?

And, late Tuesday afternoon, United said it would do the same, suspending, its operations to Hong Kong from Feb. 8 through Feb. 20. United also cited decreasing demand.

"We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and make any necessary changes to our schedule," United said in a statement.

Hong Kong had been largely excluded from the suspensions impacting flights to mainland China in recent days. While some frequencies were reduced, for example United Airlines is suspending two of its three daily flights, many long-haul services to the city continued.

The news of American and Cathay Pacific's flight cuts also comes after the first death attributed to coronavirus in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, United — the largest U.S. carrier to China and Hong Kong — has moved the date of its flight suspension for mainland China forward by a day to Feb. 5, the Star Alliance carrier told employees in an internal newsletter viewed by TPG Tuesday. The airline cited a drop in demand and the U.S. State Department's decision to issue a Level 4, or do not travel, advisory for mainland China.

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Delta Air Lines, which suspended all of its flights to China on Feb. 2, does not serve Hong Kong.

Related: What are airlines doing with the jets idled by the China flight suspensions?

Even Chinese carriers are beginning to suspend flights. China Eastern Airlines has suspended some of its flights to North America through March 27, and Hainan Airlines all of its North American flights indefinitely beginning Feb. 2.

Air China also revealed plans to trim North American flights, saying in a filing with the U.S. DOT that it intends to slash its U.S. network to just two trans-Pacific routes in an effort to maintain “essential air connectivity.”

China Southern Airlines has not yet made an official comment on its plans for North America service.

More: Air China slashes U.S. network to ‘essential’ routes amid coronavirus outbreak

China had confirmed more than 20,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday, with 425 deaths or a mortality rate of 2.1%, according to a Cowen report.

The impact of the outbreak on airline's finances is as yet unknown. However, with dozens of idled wide-body jets — high-cost assets that need to be flying to generate revenue — the impact will likely be significant for those with a large exposure to mainland China.

"There really is not much these aircraft can do,” Atmosphere Research travel industry analyst and president Henry Harteveldt told TPG Monday. “This is going to cost the airlines a chunk of change.”

Updated with American Airlines' extended Los Angeles-Hong Kong suspension.

Related: China Eastern, Hainan Airlines suspend U.S. flights over coronavirus concerns

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees