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Update: Since this post was published, the following airlines have canceled some or all flights to/from China: Lufthansa, Austrian, SWISS, American Airlines, Lion Air, Jetstar Asia, KLM, and Air France.
British Airways is the latest major airline to confirm that it is suspending its flights to/from China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The UK flag carrier today announced that it was cancelling all of its scheduled flights to China through Friday 31 January (flights to Hong Kong are unaffected) and suspending ticket sales for its China routes through 1 March 2020…and BA isn’t alone in cutting services to China.
BA’s fellow oneworld carrier Finnair has also announced that it will be suspending select routes to China (routes to/from Nanjing and Beijing are suspended through the end of March) and United Airlines has said that it will be cancelling flights between February 1st and February 8th with a possibility of more cancellations to come.
Airlines like American and Delta have issued travel waivers for passengers booked to fly to/from China in the coming weeks (both airlines recently extended those waivers to cover travel through the end of February) but, at the time of writing, they haven’t announced any flight cancellations….although it may just be a matter of time.
It’s important to note that for some airlines (e.g. United) it’s primarily money and profits that are the driving forces behind the flight cancellations and not the airline’s feeling of duty to ensure that they don’t inadvertently play a major role in helping the virus spread around the globe…and that’s why I think we’ll see more flight cancelations announced.
With fears of the coronavirus increasing daily, airlines are seeing passengers canceling their China travel plans masse and the last thing they want to have to do is operate thirsty wide-body aircraft on routes where only a handful of customers are traveling – it’s much cheaper to cancel the flights and wait out the storm.
United is unlikely to be the only airline seeing passenger numbers on its China routes go through the floor so, unless we get some unexpectedly good news in the next 24 – 48 hours, it’s probably only a matter of time before we see American and Delta announcing their own cancellations and, in Europe, airlines like Lufthansa, Air France and KLM joining in too.
If you have plans to travel to/from China in the next month it may b a good idea to start assuming the worst and making alternative arrangements where possible. Better yet, don’t travel there at all.