Coronavirus Travel: 3 Major U.S. Airlines Suspend China Flights

Coronavirus Travel: 3 Major U.S. Airlines Suspend China Flights

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Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines said Friday that they were suspending service between the United States and China.

American Airlines said it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China immediately through March 27. Delta and United said they would suspend service starting on Feb. 6 to accommodate customers and employees. United said it expected to resume operations on March 28. Delta said its suspension would last through April 30.

American Airlines said service connecting Hong Kong with Dallas and Los Angeles would continue, while United said it would still operate a single daily flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong. Delta does not fly to Hong Kong.

Share prices in all three airlines were down in late trading — about 4 percent for United and American and about 3 percent for Delta — as concerns about the virus led to a broad market decline. The S&P 500 was down about 2 percent.

In a statement, Delta said that its last flight to China from the United States would depart on Monday and that its last flight to the United States from China would leave on Wednesday. United said its last flight to China would be on Tuesday, while the last flight from China to the United States would depart on Wednesday.

In a statement on Friday, the Association of Flight Attendants, which has tens of thousands of members, called on the United States government to provide “clear direction” to domestic airlines to halt all flights to China.

“We need responsible leadership from our government and we need it now,” Sara Nelson, the union’s president, said in the statement.

Some White House advisers had been pushing President Trump to impose new travel restrictions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

People briefed on internal discussions said that members of the National Security Council had spoken in favor of imposing new travel restrictions, given the rapid spread of the virus and a backlog in testing at the Centers for Disease Control.

Countries surrounding China, including Mongolia, Russia and Singapore, have moved to shut down their borders. But some officials from the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services have expressed concerns about imposing such a measure in the United States, the people said.

Mr. Trump, sources familiar with his thinking said, has been concerned about the economic impact of any travel restrictions. Speaking at a factory in Michigan on Thursday, Mr. Trump played down concerns about the coronavirus, saying it would have a “very good ending for us” and that “hopefully it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be.”

On Thursday, the State Department raised its travel advisory to Level 4 — “Do not travel” — a rating reserved for situations in which the government expects to have very limited ability to help citizens abroad. The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency because of the spreading virus, though it opposed restrictions on travel or trade with China.

American Airlines said its decision to suspend flights was informed by the State Department advisory. The union representing the airline’s pilots had sued American on Thursday, seeking an end to the flights, citing “known and unknown risks” in its lawsuit.

Airlines had already begun limiting service to China this week, offering fee waivers for those traveling to the country. In its statement, Delta said customers whose flights were affected could get information from the My Trips section of the Delta site to understand how to request a refund and rebook their travel after April 30.

In 2018, more than 8.5 million passengers traveled between the United States and China, according to data from the United States Transportation Department. United carried about 17 percent of those passengers, second only to Air China’s 19 percent. Delta flew about 10 percent of those passengers, while American Airlines accounted for about 9 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of those who traveled between the two countries in 2018 flew on a handful of Chinese airlines, none of which immediately responded to requests for comment Friday on any plans to halt or modify service.

Major cargo companies — United Parcel Service, FedEx and DHL — said that they were monitoring the spread of the virus and that they had urged employees to take basic safety precautions. DHL said services in Hubei Province — which includes Wuhan, the city at the center of the virus outbreak — had been suspended because of strict controls put in place by the local government.

In a research report this week, DHL warned that should local lockdowns in China extend into February, they could affect the supply chains of sectors including automotive, pharmaceutical and medical supplies, and high-tech manufacturing for the optical electronics and semiconductors industries. This week, Tesla, the electric-car maker, said production at its new Shanghai factory could be affected by a local order calling for a temporary halt to operations.

On Friday, Cruise Lines International Association, an industry group that represents some of the world’s largest cruise operators, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, said in a statement that its members would deny boarding to any person who has traveled through mainland China within the past 14 days.

Annie Karni, Ana Swanson, Tariro Mzezewa and Mike Arnot contributed reporting.


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