More airlines, governments stop China flights over Coronavirus fears

Air Canada is suspending its flights to China. Photo: © Anna Zvereva

An increasing number of international airlines, and even governments, are suspending some or all of their flights to mainland China, over fears that the Coronavirus could spread.

On Wednesday, British Airways became the first major international airline to temporarily stop flying to its Chinese destinations, excluding Hong Kong. This came after the UK’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the country. It was followed by the Lufthansa Group, including Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines, which will halt all flight connections to mainland China starting Thursday. The stop will last until at least February 9. New bookings are even suspended until the end of February. Combined, the Lufthansa Group airlines operate 54 weekly flights to China.

Low-cost carriers Lion Air and Air Seoul also confirmed a halt of their flights to the country on that day.

Several hours later, Air Canada announced a suspension of its China flights, again excepting Hong Kong, until February 29. The Canadian flag-carrier operates five routes to the country, all operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Beijing and Shanghai are its only two destinations, which are both served from hubs Vancouver and Toronto. Furthermore, the airline flies from Montreal to Shanghai.

Passengers receive the offer to change flights onto a different airline or request a full refund free of charge.

On Thursday, more and more airlines joined the list of carriers that temporarily stop all their flights to China (see full list further down).

In addition to that, many airlines have suspended some, but not all, routes or have reduced frequencies. This is to lower risks or simply because of dropping demand. These include United Airlines, American Airlines, Finnair, Air Asia and Air India (see full list further down). Air Tanzania has reportedly pushed back the inaugural flights on its first ever route connecting China.

The so-called Coronavirus is the reason behind this mass cancellation of travel option to China. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, in the province of Hubei. In response, the Chinese government started a mass quarantine by shutting down transport to and from the Wuhan area, including the airport.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s government had announced that all four airlines from the country have to gradually reduce the total number of daily flights to China by half.

Cathay Dragon is a sister airline of Cathay Pacific and mostly operates flights to China. Photo: © Afpwong

A day later, Kazakhstan, which shares a border with China, said that it would cut all transportation links to its neighbor, starting February 3, affecting Air Astana and SCAT Airlines.

The Italian government announced on Thursday, after the first two cases of Coronavirus were confirmed in the country, to halt all flights between China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and Italy, affecting mostly Chinese airlines as well as Italian leisure and charter airline Neos. Flag-carrier Alitalia currently does not operate flights to China.

On Friday, the Iranian government announced a similar action, suspending all flights between its country and China.

This was followed by Vietnam, which banned flights to and from China until May. Vietnam initially also suspended air traffic to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, however, this was later adjusted.

Meanwhile, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Israel banned all non-residents with recent travel history to mainland China from entering. The Philippines are enforcing the same, but currently including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan for reasons unclear.

Developing list of airlines that have announced to temporarily suspended all flights to mainland China:

  • Air Astana
    from February 3 indefinitely, following government decision, bookings currently closed until October 23
  • Air Canada
    until February 29
  • Air France
    until February 9
  • Air New Zealand
    from February 9 until March 29
  • Air Seoul
    indefinitely
  • American Airlines
    until March 27
American Airlines came under pressure from its employees when it first suspended only select flights. Photo: © Bidgee
  • Austrian Airlines
    until February 29
  • Azerbaijan Airlines
    until March 7 (airline claims not connected to virus)
  • Azur Air
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • British Airways
    until February 29
  • Cebu Pacific
    until March 29
  • Delta Air Lines
    until April 30
  • Egyptair
    from February 4
  • El Al Israel Airlines
    until March 25
  • Finnair
    from February 6 until February 29
Finnair’s route network is heavily based on connecting flights to east-Asia, including China. Photo: © Phillip Rohmberger / IFN
  • Iberia
    until February 29 (expected)
  • IndiGo
    from February 6
  • IrAero Airlines
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • Jetstar Asia Airways
    until March 31
  • Jetstar Pacific
    until May 1, following government decision
  • Kenya Airways
    indefinitely, did not operate non-stop to China
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
    until February 9
  • Lion Air
    indefinitely
  • LOT Polish Airlines
    until February 9
  • Lufthansa
    until February 29
Lufthansa operated the Airbus A380 on some China flights. Photo: © Phillip Rohmberger / IFN
  • Mahan Air
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • Neos
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • Norwind Airlines
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • Oman Air
    indefinitely
  • Philippines AirAsia
    until March 1
  • Qantas
    from February 9 (possibly earlier) until March 29
  • Qatar Airways
    from February 3 indefinitely
  • Royal Air Maroc
    until February 29
  • Royal Flight Airlines
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • RwandAir
    indefinitely, did not operate non-stop to China
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
    indefinitely
  • SAS Scandinavian Airlines
    until February 9, bookings closed until February 29
  • SCAT Airlines (charter)
    from February 3 indefinitely, following government decision
SCAT is an airline from Kazakhstan and was among the first 737 MAX operators. Photo: © Anna Zvereva
  • Scoot
    from February 8
  • Swiss International Airlines
    until February 29
  • S7 Airlines
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • Thai Smile Airways
    until February 29
  • Turkish Airlines
    until February 9
  • Turkmenistan Airlines
    indefinitely
  • United Airlines
    from February 6 until March 28
  • Ural Airlines
    indefinitely, following government decision
  • VietJet Air
    indefinitely
  • Vietnam Airlines
    until May 1, following government decision
  • Virgin Atlantic
    until February 14

Developing list of airlines that are undertaking a temporary reduction or cancellation of some flights to mainland China (by country):

  • Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express
  • Macau: Air Macau
  • United States: UPS Airlines
  • South Korea: Asiana Airlines, Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, Korean Air
  • Taiwan: China Airlines, EVA Air
  • Philippines: Philippine Airlines
  • Malaysia: AirAsia
  • Singapore: Silk Air, Singapore Airlines
  • Thailand: Thai Lion Air
  • Myanmar: Air KBZ, Myanmar Airways International, Myanmar National Airlines
  • India: Air India
  • Russia: Aeroflot
  • Ukraine: Ukraine International Airlines
  • UAE: Emirates, Etihad Airways
  • Tanzania: Air Tanzania (delayed launch)

Lists as of February 3rd. Information changes quickly and may in parts be obsolete. The second list excludes Wuhan routes, as all flights to the city were forced to be suspended.

Most other airlines are offering limited rebooking or refund options to passengers due to fly on a flight to or from China.

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