British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air are suspending all flights to China as fears spread about the outbreak of the new virus known as 2019-nCoV, which has killed more than 130 people and infected more than 6,000 in mainland China and abroad.
Several other airlines including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.
British Airways said Wednesday it is immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.
The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.
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Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations other than Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.
Lion Air said it has canceled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Denpasar, Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta and Batam to 15 airports in China.
Lion Group spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro said the suspension would be phased in gradually and would continue until further notice.
The epicenter of the outbreak is Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, but during their Tuesday press conference, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials said there were 60 cases in 13 other countries outside of China, including five in the U.S.
China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.
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The White House is considering a ban on flights between the United States and China, Trump administration officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, three U.S. carriers have nonstop flights from the U.S. to China: United, Delta and American.
United Airlines announced Tuesday it would suspend 24 flights between the U.S. and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai the first week of February. The airline operates roughly 12 flights per day from the U.S. to mainland China and Hong Kong. The planned reduction would mean three or four fewer flights per day.
Delta Air Lines currently operates six daily nonstop flights between the U.S. and Beijing and Shanghai. American Airlines operates 10 flights daily to and from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.
All three airlines already have issued flight waivers for travelers who don’t want to travel to China, allowing them to postpone or cancel plans without the usual penalty.
Contributing: Julia Thompson and Curtis Tate, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.