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United cancels some China, Hong Kong flights amid coronavirus fears

Jan. 28, 2020
4 min read
United cancels some China, Hong Kong flights amid coronavirus fears
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Travelers around the world are understandably concerned about the recent coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China and quickly spread to North America, Europe and beyond. The vast majority of active cases and deaths are within China, though, prompting flyers to cancel business and leisure travel to the country, and to other parts of Asia as well.

Now, in response to reduced demand, United Airlines has announced that it has removed a total of 24 flights from the schedule that were originally expected to operate between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8. United did not specifically cite the coronavirus in suspending flights, but the move comes as concerns mount about the spread of the virus. According to United:

Due to a significant decline in demand for travel to China, we are suspending some flights between our hub cities and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai beginning Feb. 1 through Feb. 8. We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and will adjust our schedule as needed.

This initial wave of temporary suspensions impacts select flights from Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), including the following flights to and from Hong Kong (HKG):

HubOutbound from U.S.Inbound to U.S.Aircraft
SFO (869/878)2/4/20202/5/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (869/878)2/6/20202/7/2020Boeing 777-200ER
EWR (179/180)2/1/20202/3/2020Boeing 777-200ER

Along with the following flights to and from Beijing (PEK):

HubOutbound from U.S.Inbound to U.S.Aircraft
IAD (807/808)2/2/20202/3/2020Boeing 787-8
IAD (807/808)2/3/20202/4/2020Boeing 787-8
IAD (807/808)2/4/20202/5/2020Boeing 787-8
IAD (807/808)2/5/20202/6/2020Boeing 787-8
IAD (807/808)2/6/20202/7/2020Boeing 787-8
IAD (807/808)2/7/20202/8/2020Boeing 787-8
ORD (851/850)2/6/20202/8/2020Boeing 777-200ER
ORD (851/850)2/7/20202/9/2020Boeing 777-200ER
EWR (89/88)2/4/20202/5/2020Boeing 777-200ER
EWR (89/88)2/5/20202/6/2020Boeing 777-200ER

And these flights to and from Shanghai (PVG):

HubOutbound from U.S.Inbound to U.S.Aircraft
SFO (891/890)2/1/20202/2/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (891/890)2/2/20202/3/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (891/890)2/3/20202/4/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (891/890)2/5/20202/6/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (891/890)2/6/20202/7/2020Boeing 777-200ER
SFO (891/890)2/7/20202/8/2020Boeing 777-200ER
EWR (86/87)2/4/20202/5/2020Boeing 777-300ER
EWR (86/87)2/6/20202/7/2020Boeing 777-300ER
ORD (835/836)2/3/20202/4/2020Boeing 777-200ER
ORD (835/836)2/5/20202/6/2020Boeing 777-200ER
ORD (835/836)2/7/20202/8/2020Boeing 777-200ER

As you may have noticed above, these flights are operated by some of United's largest aircraft, including the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, 777-200ER and 777-300ER. We've reached out to United to request more details regarding how these wide-body planes will be utilized during this unexpected downtime.

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Meanwhile, United's flight attendant union, The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, quickly released a statement sharing appreciation for the move. The union said:

This is the right proactive approach in times like these. It is not only a good business decision, it will allow United to properly provision flights around the system by consolidating universal precaution materials. This minimizes unnecessary exposure. It also allows Flight Attendants to better plan for their own schedules. We appreciate United’s continued work with our union to mitigate risk during this outbreak.

For now, flights to Chengdu (CTU) in Western China do not appear to be affected, and the airline will continue operating the flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai not outlined above. That includes the carrier's second daily service from San Francisco (SFO) to Shanghai.

If you're impacted by these cancellations, be sure to contact United right away for rebooking or to request a refund. And, for general advice, don't miss our detailed guide covering what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled.

Featured image by United's current livery on the airline's first 787-10 at Boeing's Charleston delivery center. Photo by Zach Honig.

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