Airlines around the world have suspended and cut back services to parts of mainland China in response to the spread of coronavirus.
- British Airways is suspending all flights to and from mainland China
- 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
- Qantas is offering refunds to passengers with tickets to China
British Airways said it was immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the UK Government warned against unnecessary travel to the country.
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.
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, while US airline American Airlines has suspended Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing.
The number of confirmed cases jumped to 5,974, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China from SARS. The virus has killed more than 130 people.
In Australia, seven cases of the virus have been confirmed, with health authorities warning anyone who has travelled to Hubei province to isolate themselves for 14 days.
The Federal Government’s Smart Traveller website advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to China in response to the outbreak, recommending people do not travel to Hubei.
What to do if you have tickets to China
- Qantas is offering full refunds for customers with flights to mainland China between January 24 and March 31 (inclusive), for tickets issued on or before January 24
- Cancellation or change fees are being waived
- These options also cover customers on other carriers travelling to or originating from mainland China who hold a separate Qantas ticket for travel trans-Tasman or within Australia
- The airline also advises customers to ensure their contact details are up to date to receive the latest information about flights to China
- Jetstar is offering refunds for customers with bookings as part of their itinerary to mainland China which depart between January 24 and 31
- Change and cancellation fees will not be charged
Qantas is offering full refunds for customers who bought tickets to, from or via mainland China issued on or before January 24, and will waive change or cancellation fees.
But Qantas is continuing normal operation of flights to China, with the airline telling customers it was monitoring the situation in the country.
Jetstar, which does not fly directly to China from Australia, is offering refunds for customers with Jetstar bookings as part of an itinerary to mainland China.
Change and cancellation fees will not be charged to customers with flights departing between January 24 and 31.
The coronavirus has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
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 US has not put into place travel restrictions, though Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “it’s important to not take anything off the table,” when he was asked about that potential.
American Airlines has suspended flights between Los Angeles and both Shanghai and Beijing from February 9 through March 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.
China has cut off access to the central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.
That has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.
The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.
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