China Eastern, Hainan Airlines suspend U.S. flights over coronavirus concerns
Chinese carriers China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines have suspended some flights to North America as airlines across the globe scale back service to mainland China amid the coronavirus health scare.
A collection of international airlines — including all three major U.S. carriers — has already announced temporary cancellations of routes to China, but China Eastern was the first carrier based in the country to announce the suspension of its flights to the U.S. and Canada. It was joined by Hainan Airlines, which said in a statement that it would temporarily end flights between China and North American beginning Feb. 2.
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Aviation industry watchers said it's likely that other airlines, especially those based in China, will follow suit, though Air China and China Southern Airlines have not yet made any such announcements publicly.
"Until the outbreak is confirmed by WHO to have been contained, I expect less and less appetite for capacity risk, fewer and fewer seats to be offered," aviation analyst Robert W. Mann said in an email to TPG.
"It would surprise me if any airline was willing to absorb the losses that come with current marketplace concerns about traveling to and from China," he added, "even carriers that have been flooding the market with capacity, and even though they undoubtedly benefit from few other carriers flying."
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Beginning on Sunday, China Eastern's flights from Shanghai to Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) were canceled through Feb. 10.
The service to San Francisco (SFO) will be canceled on Feb. 6 and 9, and to Chicago (ORD) on Feb. 8. The flight to Honolulu is suspended beginning Monday (Feb. 3) until March 27.
China Eastern will also suspend flights from Kunming to Vancouver via Nanjing and to San Francisco via Qingdao. And its route from Chengdu to Los Angeles via Nanjing will be suspended beginning Tuesday.
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Fear of coronavirus continues to grow as the death toll rises. According to the World Health Organization, there were more than 14,000 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide as of Sunday. So far, the coronavirus outbreak has caused 305 confirmed deaths, with all but one of the fatalities occurring in China.
China Eastern is a member of the a SkyTeam frequent-flyer alliance and a partner for Delta. Its U.S. destinations include Chicago O’Hare, Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and San Francisco as well as the U.S.-controlled Pacific territory of Saipan (SPN), according to Cirium schedule data.
Hainan Airlines flies from China to six U.S. cities: Boston (BOS), Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Seattle (SEA) and San Jose (SJC) in California. The carrier recently stopped service to Las Vegas (LAS).