Feb 1, 2020
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Coronavirus Travel: 3 Major U.S. Airlines Suspend China Flights

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Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines said on Friday morning that they were suspending service between the United States and China — drastically limiting service just hours before the Trump administration issued new travel restrictions of its own.

American Airlines said it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China immediately through March 27. Delta and United said they would suspend service starting on Feb. 6 to accommodate customers and employees. United said it expected to resume operations on March 28. Delta said its suspension would last through April 30.

American Airlines and United said they would still operate flights between the United States and Hong Kong. Delta does not fly to that city.

Share prices in all three airlines were down for the day — nearly 4 percent for United, more than 3 percent for American and nearly 2.5 percent for Delta — as concerns about the virus led to a broad market decline. The S&P 500 was down nearly 2 percent.

In a statement, Delta said that its last flight to China from the United States would depart on Monday and that its last flight to the United States from China would leave on Wednesday. United said its last flight to China would be on Tuesday, while the last flight from China to the United States would depart on Wednesday.

On Friday afternoon, the Trump administration said it was suspending entry into the United States by any foreign nationals who have traveled to China in the last 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of American citizens or permanent residents. It also said it would funnel all flights from China to just a few airports, including Kennedy International in New York, O’Hare in Chicago, and San Francisco International Airport.

Countries surrounding China, including Mongolia, Russia and Singapore, have moved to shut their borders.

On Thursday, the State Department raised its travel advisory to Level 4 — “Do not travel” — a rating reserved for situations in which the government expects to have very limited ability to help citizens abroad. The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency because of the spreading virus, though it opposed restrictions on travel or trade with China.

Airlines had already begun limiting service to China this week, offering fee waivers for those traveling to the country. Delta said customers whose flights were affected by the suspension could visit the My Trips section of its website to learn how to request a refund and rebook travel.

Travelers who bought trip insurance could find that in general, most plans won’t protect against trip cancellations in scenarios like the coronavirus outbreak.

“Fear of travel, travel advisories and destinations being inaccessible due to this illness are typically not covered risks under travel insurance,” Carol Mueller, vice president for marketing at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, said in an email. To be covered, travelers would have to buy more expensive “cancel for any reason” coverage, and even then, it would cover only about half of the total trip cost.

In 2018, more than 8.5 million passengers traveled between the United States and China, according to data from the United States Transportation Department. United carried about 17 percent of those passengers, second only to Air China’s 19 percent. Delta flew about 10 percent of those passengers, while American Airlines accounted for about 9 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of those who traveled between the two countries in 2018 flew on a handful of Chinese airlines, none of which immediately responded to requests for comment Friday on any plans to halt or modify service.

Major cargo companies — United Parcel Service, FedEx and DHL — said that they were monitoring the spread of the virus and that they had urged employees to take basic safety precautions. DHL said services in Hubei Province — which includes Wuhan, the city at the center of the virus outbreak — had been suspended because of strict controls put in place by the local government.

In a research report this week, DHL warned that should local lockdowns in China extend into February, they could affect the supply chains of sectors including automotive, pharmaceutical and medical supplies, and high-tech manufacturing for the optical electronics and semiconductors industries. This week, Tesla, the electric-car maker, said production at its new Shanghai factory could be affected by a local order calling for a temporary halt to operations.

On Friday, Cruise Lines International Association, an industry group that represents some of the world’s largest cruise operators, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, said in a statement that its members would deny boarding to any person who has traveled through mainland China within the past 14 days.

Tariro Mzezewa, Mike Arnot and Sarah Firshein contributed reporting.

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