As the coronavirus outbreak spreads rapidly around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency. As fears remain about the potential for air travel to spread the virus further, many airlines are adjusting their operations.
Some airlines have already cancelled all flights to and from mainland China. Following the UK government’s travel warning to China, British Airways announced it would cancel all flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until at least 29 February while they assess the situation. Dutch airline KLM announced that “based on existing and anticipated advice” by international bodies like WHO, it would suspend all flights to Beijing and Shanghai after this weekend until 9 February. “The flights departing from Amsterdam on Sunday, 2 February, are currently intended to give as many customers as possible the opportunity to return to Amsterdam from Beijing and Shanghai”, said the airline in a statement. American Airlines announced that in response to the US State Department's travel warning against all travel, it will suspend its service to mainland China until 27 March.
As of 30 January, some airlines have simply reduced their service to China. United Airlines has temporarily reduced flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
While some flights continue in and out of China, many airlines are also offering travellers flight waivers to change their travel plans in light of the outbreak.
Airlines that are based in the region are adjusting their in-flight services in an effort to mitigate any potential for the virus to spread. On 29 January, Cathay Pacific, the flag carrier of Hong Kong, announced temporary measures to strengthen health and safety measures on flights to and from destinations in mainland China. This means that amenities like hot towels, pillows, blankets and magazines will not be offered to passengers and duty-free sales have been suspended. In first and business class, trolley services will be suspended.
Hong Kong Airlines also announced that effective from 31 January, the airline would not offer duvets, pillows, mixed nuts and more to business class passengers on regional flights, while blankets and pillows will not be offered to economy class passengers, and the tea and coffee service is suspended.
As airlines and airports around the world continue to modify their responses to the coronavirus outbreak, travellers should monitor any updates from their relevant airline before travelling.