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Coronavirus Outbreak Forces US Airlines to Suspend All Flights to China

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Airlines across the United States have started canceling all flights to China after the Department of State raised its travel advisory to Level 4 due to the coronavirus outbreak and issued a “do not travel” warning.

American Airlines announced Friday it had heeded the government warning and would suspend all flights to and from mainland China immediately through March 27. The carrier revealed it would still offer flights to Hong Kong for the foreseeable future.

American was pressured by a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which said the working conditions associated with sending pilots to China were not justifiable and the service needed to be suspended.

The airline initially said it would halt flights to China starting on February 9.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines also announced Friday they would suspend service to Chinese destinations, but not until February 6. Officials from United said the halted flights are expected to resume by March 28, while Delta canceled the service through April 30.

Last week, carriers throughout the U.S. started issuing travel advisories, waiving change fees and offering refunds for Chinese destinations. The airlines then started suspending and reducing flights earlier this week before announcing all service would be halted.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of State raised its travel advisory for China to Level 4, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global emergency.

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Airlines Scaling Back On Some In-Flight Services Due to Coronavirus

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A few airlines, including those already affected by the coronavirus outbreak, have begun scaling back on some in-flight services as a way to help fight the virus.

The Points Guy writes that Singapore Airlines – obviously based in Asia, where the coronavirus has been most dangerous after originating in China – recently sent its frequent fliers an email about such changes.

Singapore advised its customers that some in-flight amenities will be discontinued, such as hot towel service, after-takeoff drink service, removal of reading materials from seat-back pockets, and suspension of in-flight sales.

Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, said that Chinese and Taiwanese carriers have taken similar precautionary steps based on government guidance, including removing pillows and blankets on some flights.

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“They’re changing their cabin service procedures, so the passengers will notice this,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy.

But Harteveldt also remained optimistic that passengers wouldn’t pitch a fit given the circumstances.

“Passengers will accept (the reduction in services) because they’re being done in the interest of health and wellness,” he said.

As the virus, now known as covid-19, continues to expand globally, it remains to be seen if other airlines – including those based in the U.S. who offer international travel – adopt the same practice.

The aviation industry is quite often a copycat business, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some similar changes put into place.

“As adults, we have to be logical and rational when we experience these inconveniences,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy. “This isn’t cost-cutting, this isn’t random, this is in the best interest of public health.”

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