By Zachary Stieber
Delta Airlines and American Airlines will suspend all flights between the United States to China, the carriers said on Jan. 31.
All flights will be suspended “beginning Feb. 6 through April 30 due to ongoing concerns related to the coronavirus,” Delta said in a statement.
“Between now and Feb. 5, Delta will continue to operate flights to ensure customers looking to exit China have options to do so,” the Atlanta-based airline added.
The last China-bound flight departing the United States will leave on Feb. 3. The last return flight to the United States from China will leave on Feb. 5.
Customers who have trips that will be affected can visit the Delta website and go to the “My Trips” section. When there, they can request a refund or switch to flights that leave after April 30. They can also contact Delta to explore additional options.
Changes to the flight schedule will be effective on Delta’s website beginning Saturday.
For customers with bookings on flights through Feb. 5, Delta will continue to offer a change fee waiver for customers who wish to adjust their travel plans for U.S.-China flights, the airline said.
American also said on Friday that it was suspending flights to and from the Chinese mainland beginning today through March 27.
“Our teams are contacting affected customers directly to accommodate their needs. We will continue to evaluate the schedule for March 28 and beyond and make any adjustments as necessary,” the Fort Worth-based airline said in a statement.
American’s statement came after the Allied Pilots Association, a union representing 15,000 American Airlines pilots, sued the company to try to halt flights to and from China.
“The safety and well-being of our crews and passengers must always be our highest priority—first, last, and always,” Capt. Eric Ferguson, the association’s president, said in a statement. “Numerous other major carriers that serve China, including British Airways, Air Canada, and Lufthansa, have chosen to suspend service to that country out of an abundance of caution.”
Dozens of airlines around the world have halted or curbed flights to and/or from China amid the outbreak, which has spread to countries around the world.
The virus has killed people in China but no deaths have been reported yet outside the country, where the outbreak started last month.
Kenya Airways, the country’s largest airline, said it was suspending flights to China’s Guangzhou, Lufthansa said it was suspending all flights to China, and British Airways said it was suspending all direct flights to and from mainland China. Other airlines have curtailed flights to China, including American Airlines.
Some countries have taken unilateral action to halt flights to and from China. Pakistan, Italy, Iran, and Israel said no flights would be allowed to or from the country.
Other countries have issued strong warnings to citizens about traveling to China. Japan warned nationals to avoid nonessential travel while the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for China to the highest level, which states clearly to “not travel” to the country.
Countries around the world have been sending flights into China to evacuate citizens of making plans to send flight in. The United States evacuated some 195 people with plans to ferry more from Wuhan while France evacuated about 200 citizens and South Korea evacuated 367 nationals.
The World Health Organization on Thursday declared a global health emergency over the virus outbreak.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said at a press conference after traveling to China earlier in the week.
“The vast majority of cases outside China have a travel history to Wuhan, or contact with someone with a travel history to Wuhan,” he added, though some person-to-person transmission has occurred.
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