Coronavirus impact: United extends China flight cancellations to March 28

On Thursday, United Airlines further pared back its U.S.-China flight schedules, extending the cuts through the end of March, in response to the coronavirus outbreak that’s killed at least 170 people in China.

Earlier this week, United became the first carrier to adjust its China flights, anticipating lower demand as the State Department and Centers for Disease Control began urging Americans to avoid travel to China, where more than 6,000 people have been infected.

With Thursday’s move, United will have four daily departures to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from its U.S. hubs, down from 12. The airline will cancel 332 roundtrips from Feb. 9 to March 28, in addition to those previously planned for the first week of February.

“We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and will adjust our schedule as needed,” United said in a statement.

The affected U.S. hubs include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Newark and Washington Dulles.

Coronavirus outbreak prompts flight cuts:  United becomes first US airline to cancel China flights 

American, Delta, foreign carriers cut some China flights

Delta and American announced their own schedule changes Wednesday, following United’s initial cuts on Tuesday and signals from the White House that it was considering a China flight ban.  

Delta is cutting its weekly flights in half between the two countries, from 42 to 21, beginning Feb. 6 and lasting through April 30. Delta’s cuts include service between Beijing and Detroit and Seattle; as well as between Shanghai and Los Angeles,  Seattle, Detroit and Atlanta. Rather than operate daily, those flights will operate three to four times a week, the airline said.

American will suspend flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai and Beijing from Feb. 9 through March 27, spokesman Curtis Blessing said. The airline operates 10 flights daily to and from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

Coronavirus outbreak:  Delta cuts China flights through April 30, joining American, United

Police and medical personnel take the temperature of airplane passengers Tuesday upon arrival at the airport in Zhoushan City, Zhejiang Province, China.

All three domestic airlines serving China already have issued flight waivers for travelers who don’t want to travel there, allowing them to postpone or cancel plans without the usual penalty. 

Foreign carriers have also cut flights to China. British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Air Seoul are suspending all flights to China. Several other airlines, including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.

Scandinavian Airlines said Thursday it would halt all flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Friday through at least Feb. 9 and suspend ticket sales for flights to those cities until Feb. 29.

Meanwhile, the Madrid-based carrier Iberia announced it was halting three flights a week between Madrid and Shanghai beginning Friday and running through Feb. 29. Korean Air Lines has suspended service to China, Hong Kong and Tapei through March 27. Israel’s El Al has also suspended service between Tel Aviv and Beijing through March 25 but will continue flights to Hong Kong, Israeli media outlets Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post reported.

They join a growing list of international carriers suspending or reducing service to China, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Air France and KLM.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin issued a decree ordering the temporary closure of the country’s border with China, which extends for 2,600 miles. In addition, all train traffic between the two countries, except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, was stopped Thursday.

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How did the coronavirus get to this point?

The epicenter of the outbreak is Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, but the disease has since spread to more than a dozen other countries, with five confirmed cases in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. State Department have expanded their travel advisories to cover all of China.

The CDC issued a level 3 travel warning Monday, its highest level, recommending travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. Previously only Wuhan was at level 3. The rest of China had been rated level 2, which recommends travelers “practice enhanced precautions.”

The CDC also announced Tuesday that it would expand screening for the virus to 20 airports from the current five.

Separately Wednesday, the State Department issued its own level 3 alert for China, urging U.S. citizens to “reconsider” travel to China. Last week, it issued a level 4 alert, its highest, for Wuhan. A level 4 means “Do not travel.”

Cabin crew members from China Eastern Airlines wearing protective face masks make their way through Brisbane International Airport in Brisbane, Australia. The Trump administration is considering a ban on flights between the U.S. and China.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, from pneumonia to Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause high fever, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.   

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Contributing: Doug Stanglin, David Jackson, Kristen DelGuzzi, John Bacon, Dawn Gilbertson, Jayme Deerwester of USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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