Delta, United and American Airlines cancel flights to China, extend travel waivers amid coronavirus outbreak

Multiple U.S. airlines are canceling flights and extending their travel waivers for passengers scheduled to fly to China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that’s already killed over 170 people and sickened thousands and thousands more.

United Airlines announced on Tuesday that it had canceled some of its scheduled China-bound flights from San Francisco International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia for the first week of February.

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“Due to a significant decline in demand for travel to China, we are suspending some flights between our hub cities and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai beginning Feb. 1 through Feb. 8. We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and will adjust our schedule as needed,” United said a statement to Fox News.

On Wednesday, American Airlines temporarily suspended flights between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) and Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). The airline said the cancellations would extend from Feb. 9 through March 27.

The carrier cited “significant decline in demand for travel to and from China” for the move, a representative for the airline confirmed to Fox News.

Later that same day, Delta Air Lines said it would be reducing its current flights to China by about half, or roughly 21 weekly flights, between Feb. 6th through April 30.

"Delta is temporarily reducing the number of weekly flights it operates between the U.S. and China due to significantly reduced customer demand prompted by global health concerns related to coronavirus," the carrier wrote in an alert on its website.

Earlier in the week, both American Airlines and Delta also extended their change-fee waivers, allowing ticket holders with flights to China to change their travel arrangements without incurring a change fee. (More information can be found on American and Delta’s respective websites.)

A representative for American Airlines told Fox News on Tuesday the carrier originally decided to extend its travel waiver (first issued through the end of January) to “provide additional flexibility to customers” as the “Coronavirus continues to evolve.”

Across the globe — and as seen here on a departures board at the Narita airport in Japan — flights to certain regions of China have been canceled amid reports concerning the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan.

Across the globe — and as seen here on a departures board at the Narita airport in Japan — flights to certain regions of China have been canceled amid reports concerning the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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United Airlines, meanwhile, is currently offering similar “flexibility” to its travelers scheduled to fly to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong before Feb. 29, waiving a change fee for any travel scheduled before that time. United travelers with tickets to Wuhan through March 29 are also eligible for refunds — “even for nonrefundable tickets,” the airline wrote online.

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News of American, Delta and United extending their change fees came as the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory from a Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) to a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel), citing the “novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China.”

The State Department had further issued a Level 4 advisory (Do Not Travel) for the entire Hubei province, the capital of which is Wuhan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued a Level 3 warning to travelers, urging them to “avoid all non-essential travel to China.”

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Concerns over the virus' fast-spreading nature have also prompted the CDC to increase staffing at 20 U.S. airports that have quarantine facilities, The Washington Post reported. Screenings initially began for travelers arriving from Hubei at just three airports — SFO, LAX and JFK — with additional screenings implemented at O'Hare in Chicago and Hartsfield Jackson in Atlanta.

Additional airlines around the world have also scaled back their China-bound flights, while others have canceled certain routes completely, including Finnair, which canceled five of its weekly flights to China through March 29; British Airways, which suspended all service to mainland China; and the Lufthansa Group, which suspended its airlines' flights to and from mainland China through the end of February.

Alexandra Deabler contributed to this report.