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Global airlines suspend flights to China on virus fears

Cases of coronavirus surge in China

Airlines around the world are canceling or suspending flights to China amid the growing coronavirus outbreak and a sharp drop in demand for travel to the country. Among the airlines scaling back or canceling flights are United Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways and Delta Airlines.

By Thursday morning the flu-like virus had killed at least 170 people, all of them in China. More than 9,000 others have been infected in more than a dozen countries, including six confirmed cases in the United States.  

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, chairman of the subcommittee on Aviation and Space, called Friday for the U.S. government to implement a total travel ban on China as the virus continued to spread. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier in the week that the Trump Administration was considering it, but no decisions have been announced.

As demand for travel drops to China because of the outbreak, airlines including United, Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia have said they are cutting back on flights. 

On Thursday, United said it would extend its suspended flights to China through March 28, cutting to just four daily departures its typical 12 daily departures from the U.S. to mainland China. United had earlier said the flight cutbacks would end on February 8.

Delta said Friday that all flights to and from China would stop operating from February 6, with the airline flying reduced schedules before then "to ensure customers looking to exit China have options to do so." Delta said the last flight from China to the U.S. would leave on February 5. 

British Airways said Wednesday it is immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to China amid a virus outbreak. 

In the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a complete ban on travel to and from China is among the options the Trump administration is considering as it tries to address the rapid spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

195 Americans being tested in U.S. after being evacuated from China

French flagship carrier Air France announced Thursday it was suspending all normal scheduled flights to and from mainland China in a bid to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus. There were five confirmed cases of the virus in France as of Thursday.

Delta on Wednesday said it would temporarily reduce its weekly flights between the U.S. and China because of "significantly reduced customer demand." Its flights will be cut from 42 weekly flights to 21 weekly flights, it said.

China has cut off access to the central city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak, and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. Hong Kong airlines are cutting the number of their flights to the mainland by about half through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.

The first Americans evacuated on a U.S. government flight from the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak were likely facing at least a couple more days of isolation at a military base in Southern California, as the U.S. government planned more evacuation flights in the coming days. The first evacuees cleared initial health checks in China and then again during a stopover in Alaska on the way to the California base.

List of flight cancellations 

Below are additional airlines that have cancelled or suspended flights:

  • Air Canada on Wednesday said it's suspending all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai effective January 30 until February 29.
  • Lufthansa said Wednesday that it's suspending direct flights on its Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines fleets to or from mainland China until 9 February. 
  • Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations apart from Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.
  • Indonesia's Lion Air said it has canceled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta, Batam and from Denpasar, in Bali, to 15 airports in China. Lion Group's spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantor said the suspension would be phased in gradually and would continue until further notice.
  • Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways , cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Express.
  • Helsinki, Finland-based Finnair, which has actively promoted its position linking Asian and Western destinations, said it was canceling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing. It will continue operating flights to four other mainland Chinese destinations, including Beijing Capital Airport.
  • Jetstar Asia said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou starting Thursday through the end of March due to a drop in demand.
  • South Korea's second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou starting next month.
  • Korean Air, South Korea's biggest airline, said it is also considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.
  • Taiwan's Eva Air announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting Feb. 2. In addition, the airline also has stopped providing towels, magazines, table clothes, and is limiting use of blankets and pillows on its flights.
  • Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with far western China, announced Wednesday that it plans to suspend all flights, train and bus traffic and to halt issuing visas to Chinese nationals.
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