Major Airlines Halt Travel To China Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

by Julie Scagell
Spencer Platt/Getty

Delta, American, and United will all suspend travel through March and April 2020

Delta, American, and United Airlines have all announced they will temporarily halt all of their mainland China flights in response to the coronavirus outbreak amid pressure from unions and warnings from public health officials about the dangers of the virus.

The World Health Organization has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency as almost 10,000 people have been infected and more than 200 killed as a result of the deadly outbreak. Though most of the confirmed cases are in China, at least 98 people have been diagnosed in 18 other countries, including the United States.

The U.S. State Department elevated its China travel advisory to a level 4, recommending that Americans avoid traveling to China and all three major airlines are following suit. According to USA Today, American has suspended flights immediately through March 28, Delta will be suspending travel from Feb. 6-April 30, and United is suspending operations between its U.S. hub and three mainland China cities – Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai – from Feb. 6 until March 28.

The move comes after extended pressure from both the flight attendants and pilot’s unions representing some 43,000 workers called for the airlines and the federal government to ban China flights. “We need responsible leadership from our government and we need it now,” Sara Nelson, the union’s president, said in the statement.

Federal health authorities have also announced the 200 Americans who were evacuated from the middle of the China coronavirus outbreak will be quarantined for 14 days at a U.S. military base in order to prevent the spread of the disease, the Wall Street Journal reported. The number infected by the coronavirus in China now exceeds those infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed nearly 800 people and originated in China.

On Thursday, a man in Illinois became the first case of person-to-person transmission of the virus in the U.S, the CDC said. He is the sixth confirmed case in the U.S. overall.

American Airlines said it will still fly its Hong Kong to Dallas and Los Angeles services, and United said it would still operate a single daily flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong.

Trump spoke at a factory in Michigan on Thursday, downplaying 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.”

U.S. State Department has also officially advised Americans in China to strongly consider leaving the country and requesting all nonessential U.S. government personnel postpone travel there as the cases of infected individuals continues to increase.