DALLAS (CN) – American and Delta Airlines announced Friday they will halt all flights to and from China, a day after a pilots’ union sued in protest of continued flights due to uncertainty over the growing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 10,000 people and killed over 200.
The Fort Worth-based American Airlines cited the State Department’s decision late Thursday to increase its travel advisory for the entire Chinese mainland to a level 4 “do not travel” – the highest possible category. It had previously issued a level 3 “reconsider travel” advisory for China while maintaining a level 4 advisory for only Hubei Province – the epicenter of the epidemic.
“American is suspending its operations to and from the Chinese mainland beginning today through March 27,” the airline said in a statement. “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.”
American Airlines operates daily nonstop flights to Beijing and Shanghai from its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It also operates daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles and Chicago to China.
The airline’s daily nonstop flight from DFW to Hong Kong will continue to fly, as the State Department has a level 2 “exercise increased caution” advisory in place having to do with ongoing political protests and unrest in the Chinese territory.
The halting of flights comes one day after the Allied Pilots Association sued American Airlines in Dallas County District Court, claiming the coronavirus has “created a threat to the safety of passengers and flight crew travelling to and from” China.
“While American Airlines has recently announced that it intends to suspend some flights to China effective Feb. 9, 2020 [from Los Angeles], it has yet to take any action to cancel/suspend flights prior to that date,” the complaint stated. “Plaintiff contends that defendant’s failure to immediately cancel all flights to and from China fails to meet the standard of care evidence by other carriers in the industry.”
Union spokesman Dennis Tajer applauded American Airlines’ halting of China flights.
“Now that American is ceasing operations in China, the ultimate goal is that all our passengers and crew will remain safe and that was our main goal,” he said.
Also Friday, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines announced it will halt all flights to and from China between Feb. 6 and April 30 due to the coronavirus outbreak. It said the delayed halt will ensure customers looking to leave China have the option to do so.
“The last China-bound flight departing the U.S. will leave on Monday, Feb. 3 with the last return flight back to the U.S. departing China on Feb. 5,” Delta said in a statement. “The airline will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve.”
Chinese authorities have placed over 50 million people under virtual quarantine, as several major cities have been rendered ghost towns with empty streets during the traditionally festive and busy Lunar New Year holiday. The virus is believed to have a two-week incubation period in which it can be passed to others even if an infected person shows no fever or cough symptoms.
The United States now joins Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany in urging citizens against nonessential travel to China.