Delta to suspend all U.S. flights to China amid coronavirus outbreak

A Delta Air Lines jet prepares to take off as another jet approaches at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Delta Air Lines announced Friday morning that it will temporary suspend all U.S. flights to China amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline will discontinue flights to China from Feb. 6 through April 30 due to "ongoing concerns" related to the virus, the company said in a news release.

That means the only scheduled passenger flights from Atlanta to China -- a Delta route to Shanghai -- will come to a halt. Delta will stop flying its Atlanta-Shanghai route, as well as its flights from other U.S. cities to Beijing and Shanghai.

The announcement follows a U.S. State Department "Do Not Travel" advisory for China issued late Thursday due to the spreading outbreak that started in Hubei province.  The State Department advises not to travel to China and that U.S. citizens in China should consider departing.

Between now and Feb. 5, Delta said it will continue operating flights to ensure that customers looking to get out of China have that option.

Other airlines also announced they would suspend flights from the United States to China.

On Friday afternoon, the Trump Administration announced a public health emergency and said U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province in the last 14 days will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

Others who have traveled elsewhere in mainland China in the last two weeks will be screened and undergo up to 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine,” according to federal officials.

Flights from China to the U.S. will be funneled to Atlanta and six other major airports for screening.

Hartsfield-Jackson has quarantine facilities in the international terminal, on Concourse F.

President Donald Trump also signed a proclamation to temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the disease. It will apply to foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the last 14 days, unless they are immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

The temporary measures take effect Sunday Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. EST.

The State Department said Chinese authorities have suspended air, road and rail travel in the area around Wuhan, where the outbreak began, and have restricted travel and other activities throughout the country. The U.S. government has “limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in [Wuhan’s] Hubei province,” according to the State Department.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines said it is suspending its flights to China effective today through March 27, based on the State Department advisory.

American made the move effective Friday after its pilots union filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an immediate halt to the carrier’s flights between the United States and China due to health threats, and told its members to decline any further assignments to operate flights to China.

United Airlines said it will suspend its flights to China from Feb. 6 until March 28. It said it would operate select flights to ensure its employees and customers have options to return home, as well as a daily flight between Hong Kong and San Francisco.

RELATED: More than 20 travelers undergo advanced screening for coronavirus at Hartsfield-Jackson

Atlanta-based Delta currently operates 42 weekly flights between the U.S. and China, including daily service connecting Beijing and Detroit and Seattle, and Shanghai and Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.

But the airline had announced Wednesday that it would cut its China flight schedule in half effective Feb. 6 due to concerns about coronavirus. The new announcement amid the rapidly expanding public health response means the airline will instead suspend its China flights altogether as of next Thursday.

The Delta Atlanta-Shanghai route carried between 5,208 and 8,656 passengers each month, according to passenger figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics for January through July 2019 -- the most recent figures available.

RELATED: WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency

Delta’s last China-bound flight departing the U.S. will leave on Monday, Feb. 3 with the last return flight back to the U.S. departing China on Feb. 5, the airline said. The schedule changes will appear on Delta’s website starting Feb. 1.

Travelers with flights booked to China who are affected can request a refund, reschedule their flights to after April 30 or discuss other options with Delta.

Delta is also continuing to waive change fees for passengers with flights booked to, from or through Beijing and Shanghai through Feb. 5.

MORE: Read Delta's announcement

“The airline will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve,” the company said in its news release.

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