With the sunset on the coronavirus outbreak not yet in sight, Delta is aiming to minimize disruption to passengers.

Shortly after some 17 million people in northern Italy were put on lockdown Monday to stem a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases there, Delta Air Lines said it would suspend Atlanta and Detroit flights to Rome beginning March 11 through April 30. 

The Rome flight from New York-JFK continues to operate and will become the airline’s only link to Italy during this period after flights from New York to Milan and Venice were postponed to May 20 and May 21, respectively. 

Delta last week left its Atlanta nonstop to Rome open but noted that the situation could quickly change. 

Italy’s national government on Monday said it would extend quarantine measures employed in the northern Lombardy region to the entire country of 60 million people, suspending non-essential travel within its borders and banning public gatherings and sporting events.

The move came after the number of cases in Italy shot up to more than 9,100, with more than 460 deaths, causing the European nation to surpass South Korea as the hardest-hit outside of China by the novel coronavirus that has now been diagnosed in more than 100 countries. Still, 93 percent of cases are in the above three countries and Iran. The U.S. saw cases climb to more than 420 Monday in 35 states, with 19 deaths. Markets tanked Monday, with the S&P 500 falling 8 percent as investors weighed the uncertainty. 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian in an email to customers outlined protective measures the airline is rolling out, even as it continues flying on most of its domestic and international routes, adjusting when needed based on State Department recommendations. 

We understand that in today’s world, travel is fundamental to our business and our lives, which is why it can’t – and shouldn’t – simply stop. I believe Delta’s mission of connecting the world and creating opportunities is never more important than at times like this,” Mr. Bastian wrote.

Delta is waiving change fees for travel to certain affected countries booked before March 9 and taking off before April 30. Before Italy, it had already altered schedules to China, Japan and South Korea.

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As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...