Air China planes are parked at gates of Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, China. File photo/AP
British Airways halted all flights to China and American Airlines suspended Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing as efforts to contain a new virus intensifies.
The coronavirus has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. The number of confirmed cases jumped to 7,711, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China from SARS. The virus has killed 170 people.
The British and US carriers on Wednesday joined several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service there as fears spread about the coronavirus.
Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.
Beyond disrupting travel, the move is heightening concerns about the broader economic impact of the virus outbreak. Hotels, airlines, casinos and cruise operators are among the industries suffering the most immediate repercussions, especially in countries close to China. The crisis has also begun to ripple through US companies with operations in China.
American Airlines said Wednesday it will suspend flights between Los Angeles and both Shanghai and Beijing from Feb. 9 through Mar. 27. The airline cited "the significant decline in demand for travel to and from China.” Flights from Dallas-Fort Worth will continue, the airline said.
•Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations apart from Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.
•Indonesia's Lion Air said it has canceled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta, Batam and from Denpasar, in Bali, to 15 airports in China. The suspension will be phased in gradually and continue until further notice.
•Hong Kong airlines are cutting the number of their flights to the mainland by about half through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.
•Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways, cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Express.
•Air India is suspending Delhi-Shanghai flights, which operate six times a week, from Friday until Feb. 14.
•Finland's Finnair, which has actively promoted its position linking Asian and Western destinations, said it was canceling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing.
•Jetstar Asia will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou starting Thursday through the end of March due to a drop in demand.
•South Korea's second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou starting next month.
•Korean Air, South Korea’s biggest airline, said it is also considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.
•Taiwan’s Eva Air announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting Feb. 2. In addition, the airline also has stopped providing towels, magazines, table clothes, and is limiting use of blankets and pillows on its flights.
•Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with far western China, announced Wednesday that it plans to suspend all flights, train and bus traffic and to halt issuing visas to Chinese nationals. Before the Wednesday's suspension, there were 24 flights a week from Kazakhstan to China, including a daily flight to Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
•Japan's JAL said it had not changed its flight plans, while German carrier Lufthansa said it was monitoring the situation "very closely" and would if necessary make changes in consultation with the authorities.
•Dutch carrier KLM is cutting a number of flights to Chinese cities for a month because of a drop in bookings. As of Thursday it is suspending direct flights to Chengdu and Hangzhou. Flights to Xiamen will be suspended from Friday. The carrier also is reducing the number of flights to Shanghai from 11 to seven per week.
•Air Canada, the country's largest carrier, is temporarily suspending all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai. Flights will be suspended until Feb. 29. Air Canada operates direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
The domestic outbreak in China — where the disease first emerged last year -- had largely been brought under control but then a fresh batch of cases was detected in the capital last week.
More than 570 people have been infected with the coronavirus across China and Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, has been placed under effective quarantine.
Police inspector Rajiv Singh said that last week the gang stole 16 idols from the 300-year-old temple of Lord Balaji — an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu — police said.
Sheikh Mohamed accepted the condolences of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey; Sadyr Japarov, President of the Kyrgyz Republic; and Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, over the passing of the late Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed said on Twitter, “With his enduring wisdom and generosity, my brother Khalifa Bin Zayed was the heart of our family and the guardian of our nation."