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Delta, American Become First US Airlines to Cancel US-China Flights

A Delta Airlines jet is parked at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Delta and American Airlines announced Friday they will suspend flights to China after the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the coronavirus pandemic as a global public-health emergency.

American Airlines (AAL) said in a statement that it is suspending flights to and from mainland China until March 27. However, it will continue flights to and from Hong Kong. This decision comes after a lawsuit by the union representing airline’s pilots sued the company to immediately stop its US-China service due to possible health threats posed by the coronavirus.

Delta Air Lines was the first to announce its suspension of flights, which will begin Feb. 6 and are scheduled to continue through April 30. The last flight will leave the U.S. on Feb. 3, and the last flight to return to the U.S. will be Feb 5.

Shortly after saying it will only reduce service to mainland China, United Airlines also announced Friday it will suspend flights from Feb. 6 through March 28. The airline said in a statement it will ”operate select flights to help ensure our U.S.-based employees, as well as customers, have options to return home.” It said, though, it will continue to service one flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong.

For all three airlines, these suspensions follow travel advisories issued by the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel advisory on Thursday and recommended that all Americans leave mainland China. The CDC issued a Level 3 notice advising Americans to avoid nonessential travel to China.

Several international airlines also have also planned to suspend or reduce service to and from mainland China. British Airways, Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Air India, IndiGo, Lufthansa and Finnair have announced plans to reduce or suspend flights this week. RwandAir and Kenya Airways canceled all flights to and from Guangzhou until further notice. LOT Polish Airlines has suspended flights to China until Feb. 9, according to a deputy prime minister. Iran also suspended all flights to and from China.