Global airlines ground China flights amid mounting virus fears

As the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly, airlines around the world are suspending flights to and from China, with some carriers extending the cancellation of all China flights until end-March.

Among the airlines cutting or cancelling flights to China are British Airways, Lufthansa, American Airlines, Finnair, Vietjet, United Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Delta Airlines, Air Asia, and AirSeoul.

THAI Airways is the latest airline to cut flights to China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak

On Saturday, the Philippines and Australia joined a growing list of countries that are imposing full or limited China travel bans.

Australia’s Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand (ANZ) said that they were suspending direct flights from their countries to mainland China due to travel restrictions and a decline in forward bookings.

The Australian flag carrier will be halting flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai from February 9 until March 29. As well, ANZ will be suspending its Auckland-Shanghai service over the same period.

Meanwhile, three Philippine airlines cancelled flights to China, following the authorities’ confirmation of the Philippines’ first case of coronavirus.

Philippine Airlines said it would cut the number of flights between Manila and China by more than 50 per cent, starting this month. It would continue to serve Filipinos and Chinese nationals returning from the Lunar New Year holidays, said the airline in a statement.

Cebu Pacific said it would also be cancelling all flights between the Philippines and mainland China from February 2 to March 29. Fellow LCC, Philippines AirAsia, said its flights to and from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, would be suspended until March 1.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways is reducing capacity of its flights to and from mainland China by 50 per cent or more, from January 30 to the end of March.

Indonesia’s Lion Air Group said on January 29 it would suspend all flights to China from February. The airline has suspended six flights from several Indonesian cities to China so far and will suspend the rest next month.

Two days later, Singapore Airlines announced reduced capacity on some of its routes to mainland China in February. The cuts include flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen and Chongqing, some of which are flown by regional arm SilkAir.

Scoot, SIA’s low-cost subsidiary, said it was suspending all flights between Singapore and China from February 8, according to media reports.

Jetstar has decided to temporarily suspend services to Hefei, Guiyang, Xuzhou, Shantou and Haikou until March 31, 2020. All scheduled services from Haikou to Singapore will operate from February 1, with the final flight scheduled for February 8, 2020. A reduced number of services from Shantou to Singapore will operate on February 1, 5 and 7 with the final flight on February 7, 2020.

Over in Malaysia, Sabah has temporarily suspended all scheduled and chartered flights from China to the state with immediate effect until further notice. However, the federal government has no plans yet to suspend all flights from China to Malaysia, according to media reports.

Malaysia has ordered a temporary suspension of incoming flights from Wuhan and Hubei province until the situation returns to normal.

As well, Vietnam has suspended all air travel to China, with national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget carrier Vietjet suspending all flights to and from China from February 1. The airline continues to operate services to and from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Earlier, Air India said it was cancelling its Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai flight from January 31 to February 14.

Garuda Indonesia will also be temporarily halting all its flights to and from China as of February 5.

The airline has a total of 30 frequencies to China and the halted flights include those to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Zhengzhou and Xi’an.

THAI Airways (THAI) said today it has adjusted its flight frequencies to China in order to match with current changes to flight demand.

Its Bangkok-Beijing-Bangkok route has been cut from twice a day to one daily flight, from February 8 to 29; while its Bangkok-Shanghai-Bangkok route has been reduced from two flights per day to once daily, from February 10 to 29.

Meanwhile, the carrier’s Bangkok-Guangzhou-Bangkok route has been slashed from two daily flights to one flight per day, from February 8 to 29. Its Bangkok-Chengdu-Bangkok route has been cut from seven flights per day to five flights per day, from February 6 to 27.

As well, THAI has reduced its Bangkok-Kunming-Bangkok route from seven flights per day to three flights per day, from February 6 to 29. On the Bangkok-Xiamen-Bangkok route, services have been reduced from four flights per day to two flights per day, from February 6 to 27.

China is facing deepening isolation from widening travel bans and flight suspensions, as total fatalities from coronavirus reach 304 as of Sunday, with the Philippines reporting the first case of death from the virus outside China.

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