UPDATED: More airlines suspend China flights as coronavirus hits demand

Jan 30, 2020

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Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa are the latest airlines to suspend flights to China, amid a drop in demand associated with fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

Air Canada will suspend all service to Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from 30 January to 29 February, it said Wednesday. The Star Alliance carrier flies to both Chinese cities from its Toronto Pearson (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR) hubs, as well as to Beijing from Montreal (YUL), according to Cirium schedule data.

American will suspend its daily flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and both Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong from 9 February to 27 March, spokeswoman Nichelle Tait told TPG Wednesday. The Oneworld alliance carrier will continue to serve the two Chinese cities from its Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) base.

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Delta will cut weekly frequencies on its six routes to China in half to 21 flights a week from Feb. 6 through April 30, the Atlanta-based carrier said Wednesday. The airline will continue to fly three- or four-times weekly between Beijing and Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA), and Shanghai and Atlanta (ATL), Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The schedule reductions do not impact Delta’s plan to move to Beijing Daxing airport (PKX) on 28 March.

Lufthansa, along with its group siblings Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, will suspend all service to China until 9 February, spokesman Tal Muscal told TPG. Lufthansa serves five cities in China — Beijing Capital, Nanjing (NKG), Qingdao (TAO), Shanghai Pudong and Shenyang (SHE) — while both Austrian and Swiss serve Beijing and Shanghai, Cirium schedules show.

The airlines’ decisions to suspend flights follow similar moves by British Airways and United Airlines, the latter being the largest U.S. carrier to China.

On Thursday, two days after its initial capacity reductions, United announced what it calls a “second phase” of temporary flight suspensions. The Star Alliance carrier will begin reducing its four daily flights to Beijing to once daily, its three daily Hong Kong flights to daily, and its five daily Shanghai flights to 10 per week with the changes phasing in from 9 February through 23 February. The latest reductions will remain in place through 28 March.

United’s latest changes will see it temporarily serve Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai from only its San Francisco gateway, save for thrice-weekly service between Newark and Shanghai.

Coronavirus is the latest in several pandemics in the East Asia region since 2000. The most notable was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which hit the region in 2003. At SARS’ peak, traffic on Asia-Pacific airlines fell by more than a third, according to airline industry body IATA.

In a report Wednesday, Cowen analyst Helane Becker notes that travel between the U.S. and China dropped two-thirds during SARS but recovered quickly once the virus was contained.

The Chinese government said Wednesday that nearly 6,000 cases of coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, have been confirmed. Roughly 132 people have died from the virus.

Related: What the coronavirus means for travellers

Here is a list of the flight suspensions, as of Wednesday, 29 January:

Air Canada: All China flights suspended from 30 January – 29 February.

Air France: All China flights suspended until 9 February.

American: All flights between Los Angeles and both Beijing and Shanghai suspended from 9 February to 27 March.

Austrian: All China flights suspended until 9 February.

British Airways: All China flights suspended until 31 January, situation will be reassessed at that time.

Delta: Reduce China frequencies by half to 21 flights per week from 6 February to 30 April.

Lufthansa: All China flights suspended until 9 February.

Swiss: All China flights suspended until 9 February.

United: 24 flights to China suspended from 1-8 February, then a wholesale reduction to 24 weekly frequencies from 12 daily flights (84 weekly) from 9 February – 28 March. Reductions impact Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

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This story will be updated as more airlines adjust schedules due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

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