Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. is halving its total weekly flights between the U.S. and China to 21 from 42 as demand drops due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
All the airline’s current “U.S.-China gateways,” including an Atlanta-Shanghai nonstop route, will still be served but will see frequencies reduced to three or four times a week by Feb. 6, with the changes going live on Delta’s website by Feb. 1.
This schedule will stand through April 30, though Delta said it may make additional changes as the situation evolves. Change fees are being waived for passengers who need to alter their China travel plans.
At latest count, the World Health Organization said the respiratory virus with pneumonia-like symptoms has infected more than 7,700 people and killed 170, mostly in the Chinese city of Wuhan where it originated. Only 68 cases have been detected outside of China, in 19 other countries. The new virus has now eclipsed the number of cases of SARS detected during its outbreak 15 years ago, though that virus proved much more lethal.
The U.S. has not banned travelers from visiting China, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising Americans to avoid non-essential travel there. The White House has reportedly been considering a China flight ban but has held off so far. Just five cases have to this point been detected in four U.S. states.
The CDC has been screening passengers arriving from China at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and other ports of entry around the U.S. CDC staff this week screened nearly 200 Americans repatriated to an air base in California from Wuhan. The agency decided against a quarantine after multiple checks led to the conclusion they pose a very low risk of carrying the infection.
Delta launched its Atlanta-Shanghai flight in 2018 after a nearly decade-long hiatus following a turbulent start in 2008. The airline owns an equity stake in China Eastern Airlines and has deepening its operational partnership with the airline, particularly in Shanghai. From the U.S., Delta also offers daily service to Beijing from Detroit and Seattle and to Shanghai from Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Learn more about the outbreak and the response at the CDC’s website.
See Delta’s news release here.