Airlines slash flights to China amid virus

Global airlines continue to suspend or scale back direct flights to China's major cities amid an increase in travel warnings and decline in demand from passengers over the coronavirus.

Fears over the spread of the flu-like virus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, are increasing as the death toll rose to more than 130.

The virus appears to represent the biggest epidemic threat to the airline industry since the SARS outbreak, which at its peak in April 2003 led to a 45 per cent plunge in passenger demand in Asia, analysts said.

British Airways said it suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China. The airline's website shows no direct flights to mainland China are available to book in January or February but the airline said in an email that the cancellations were in effect until January 31 while it assesses the situation.

American Airlines said on Wednesday it would suspend flights from Los Angeles to Beijing and Shanghai but continue flying from Dallas, and Delta Air Lines said it was halving its US-China schedule to about 21 weekly flights.

US officials said the White House had decided against suspending all flights to China for now but that decision could be changed if warranted.

Air Canada said on Wednesday it would suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from January 30 to February 29.

Qantas flights to and from China are running as scheduled as the airline continues discussions with the Australian government to run an evacuation mission for people stranded in China's virus-plagued Hubei province.

Germany's Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss are suspending flights to mainland China through February 9, while Air France said it would reduce its flight schedule to Beijing and Shanghai this week..

Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia's Lion Air plans to do the same.

Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.

Iberia, part of the IAG group along with BA, said it was temporarily suspending all flights to Shanghai.

Beyond disrupting travel, the move will heighten concerns about the broader economic impact of the virus outbreak.

Hotels, airlines, casinos and cruise operators are among the industries suffering the most immediate repercussions, especially in countries close to China.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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