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Lufthansa Joins British Airways in Pulling the Plug On Mainland China Flights, Others Reduce Frequencies

Lufthansa Joins British Airways in Pulling the Plug On Mainland China Flights, Others Reduce Frequencies

The Lufthansa Group said on Wednesday afternoon that it would join British Airways in nixing all flights to mainland China amid a novel Coronavirus outbreak that has sickened thousands and killed at least 132 people in the country.  Simply citing ‘operational reasons’ Lufthansa said flights would be suspended until at least February 9. after first mulling a stopover in Seoul, South Korea for a crew swap.

The decision by the Lufthansa Group affects both its namesake mainline brand, as well as Austrian and SWISS.  All three airlines plan one last set of flights to mainland Chinese destinations on Wednesday to enable the evacuation of crews who are already on layovers in the country.

What We Learned at Lufthansa's First Capital Markets Day Since 2011
Photo Credit: Lufthansa

Those crew who operate the flights out to China will ‘deadhead’ back immediately to Germany, Austria and Switzerland as passengers.

While not directly referencing the Coronavirus outbreak, Lufthansa had previously issued a travel waiver for China specifically because of the virus.  Flights to and from Hong Kong remain unaffected at this time.

Earlier, American Airlines also confirmed it would drastically reduce services to China, with all flights between Los Angeles and Beijing and Shanghai being suspended from February 9. to March 27.  The airline intends to continue operating flights between Dallas and Beijing and Shanghai for the time being.

United Airlines has already announced a slew of cancellations to its mainland Chinese destinations, citing a significant drop in demand.  The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) welcomed the decision, saying that the reduction in services would allow United to load more personal protective equipment likes gloves, face masks and anti-bacterial gel on the flights that do run.

Meanwhile, the White House is actively considering banning all flights between the United States and mainland China, although a final decision is yet to be made.  Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 warning for China, advising against all nonessential travel to the country.

Potentially Toxic Fumes Were Reported in a British Airways Boeing 777 Five Times in Just Two Months
Photo Credit: British Airways

Many international businesses, including the likes of Facebook and Apple, have banned their employees from making trips to China while the authorities battle to bring the Coronavirus outbreak under control.

Overnight, British Airways became the first international airline to completely pull flights to mainland China, although there remains confusion over how long the suspension will last.  While some sources suggest BA has wiped its schedule for the whole month, the airline says flights could run from February 1. dependent on the situation on the ground.

Virgin Atlantic, however, said it would continue flying to Shanghai despite the UK authorities advising against nonessential travel to the country.  The airline said it was “monitoring the situation closely’ and advised customers to check their travel insurance policies.