Health and Science

More airlines suspend flights to and from China amid coronavirus fears

Key Points
  • VietJet, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines are among airlines to make new announcements.
  • Coronavirus is thought to have originated in the Hubei province of China.
  • The global death toll from the new strain is currently reported at 213.
NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - JANUARY 30, 2020: A Rospotrebnadzor (Russian Federal Service for Consumer Protection and Welfare Supervision) official uses thermal imaging devices to remotely measure temperature of passengers arriving at Novosibirsk International Airport from Sanya, China, in connection with the outbreak of a pneumonia-like coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
Kirill Kukhmar

A growing number of airlines have suspended flights in and out of China Friday as seat cancellations rise and carriers try to help prevent the global spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Vietnam's VietJet said it would temporarily cancel all flights to and from the country from Saturday. Singapore Airlines said it would reduce capacity on some of its routes to mainland China in February, but ruled out a full halt to its schedule.

Air New Zealand has now said it will reduce services to four a week rather that its current daily flights. New Zealand's economy is particularly dependent on the fortunes of China, perhaps explaining the relatively muted change by the national carrier. New Zealand has seen its currency shed 2% against the U.S. dollar this week on coronavirus fears.

Chinese carrier Shanghai Airlines said Friday it would suspend its flights to Hungary from the cities of Chengdu and Xi'an for almost two months until March 26. Other flights to Asian destinations remain operational.

African airlines RwandAir and Kenya Airways fully suspended all flights to China on Friday, giving no indication when they would resume.

Raymond's Meekins: Markets are underappreciating how bad this is for China
Raymond's Meekins: Markets are underappreciating how bad this is for China

U.S. airlines have been slightly quicker to amend schedules. Delta said Wednesday it was halving its China flights to 21 per week until at least the end of March while American Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier, is to suspend all its LA flights to Beijing and Shanghai from February 9 until March 27.

United, who had already suspended 24 flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai next week, has now said it will extend that to 332 return flights until the end of March.

Meanwhile, White House officials have told U.S. airlines that the administration is considering suspending flights from China to the U.S., people familiar with the matter said earlier this week.

On Thursday, British Airways took perhaps the firmest decision from the big carriers, cancelling all flights to mainland China for a month. On the same day Air France took a similar decision but restricted its change until February 9.

Other airlines to suspend flights to China include Air India, Air Seoul, Air Tanzania, Cathay Pacific, Egyptair, El Al, Finnair, Lion Air, Royal Air Maroc, SAS, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

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