Delta Air Lines said on Saturday that it will suspend flights to and from China earlier than the carrier had previously announced as a result of new screening protocols implemented by the Trump administration in response to the new coronavirus.
The last China-bound flight departing from the U.S. will leave on Saturday, the airline said in a statement. The last return flight from China to the U.S. will depart on Sunday.
The airline had previously said that it would begin suspending flights on Thursday.
The Trump administration declared the new coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States on Friday. During a press conference at the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the U.S. will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the past two weeks, aside from the immediate family of U.S. citizens.
Air travel between the U.S. and China has slowed significantly since the outbreak of the flu-like respiratory illness in late December, airlines have reported. Meanwhile, other American companies with footprints in China, including Apple, Ford and Kraft Heinz, have restricted employees' China business travel or scaled back operations as a result of the disease.
Markets sold off sharply on Friday on growing fears that the new coronavirus could hamper global growth. Nearly 12,000 cases have been reported globally, the vast majority of which have occurred in China. The death toll from the new coronavirus was more than 250 as of Saturday morning.
Delta's flight suspension is expected to end April 30.
The full statement from Delta is below:
Delta has made the decision to accelerate its plan to temporarily suspend flights between the U.S. and China to Feb. 2 following updated U.S. Health and Human Services screening protocols that will go into effect on Feb. 2. The last China-bound flight departing the U.S. will leave on Saturday, Feb. 1 with the last return flight back to the U.S. departing China on Feb. 2.
The airline had previously announced a plan to suspend operations effective Feb. 6 but advanced that timeline based on new U.S. requirements that will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the past two weeks, or subject to possible quarantine those U.S. citizens who have been in China's Hubei province.
Delta's first priority is to assist its customers and take care of its crews. The airline is working with customers to make adjustments to their travel plans, leveraging codeshare partners where appropriate.
Customers with affected travel plans can go to the My Trips section of delta.com to help them understand their options, including:
Delta expects flights between the U.S. and China to remain suspended through April 30, though the airline will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve.