Delta Air Lines says it has “accelerated” its plans to suspend all flights to mainland China following updated quarantine advice from U.S. Health and Human Services. The Atlanta-based airline originally announced Friday it would ground its China flights from February 6 but decided to bring the suspension forward by four days following the introduction of new travel restrictions by the U.S. government.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said it had advanced the timeline for flight suspensions “based on new U.S. requirements that will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the past two weeks, or subject to possible quarantine those U.S. citizens who have been in China’s Hubei province.”
The Singapore government has introduced a similar requirement that was key to both Qantas and Air New Zealand also deciding to suspend their flights to mainland China. Unlike Delta, both Qantas and Air New Zealand intend to operate flights to China from February 9.
The travel restrictions will prevent any foreign nationals, including air crew, from entering the United States or Singapore if they’ve been in China within the last 14-days (the suspected incubation period of the Wuhan novel Cornavirus).
United Airlines also intends to continue flying its mainland China routes until February 6, saying that it wanted to give its customers the opportunity to return home. United won’t return to mainland China until March 29, although a daily flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong will continue to operate for the time being.
Meanwhile, American Airlines introduced an immediate Chinese route suspension on Friday, with none of its mainland China flights scheduled to operate until March 28.
In a statement, American said it had taken its decision based on a Level Four: Do Not Travel warning issued by the State Department for mainland China. The airline had faced legal action from its own pilots who were trying to force the airline to ground flights following the carrier’s initial refusal to do so.
Unlike many other airline, Delta has taken the unprecedented decision to nix its flights to mainland China until at least April 30. Delta would normally operate 42 weekly flights between the United States and China, including services from Detroit and Seattle to Beijing, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle to Shanghai.
“… the airline will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve,” the spokesperson continued.
Flight attendants across the United States welcomed the decision to suspend flights to mainland China, with the likes of United and American confirming staffers would be pay protected for any trips they lose out on. Sara Nelson, head of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), has also called on additional pay protection for crew who have to self-quarantine following their return to the U.S. from mainland China.
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 12,000 had been sickened by the Wuhan Coronavirus and at least 250 people had died from the mystery illness.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.