British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air have joined a growing list of airlines that are suspending flights to China as fears spread about the outbreak of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.
Several other airlines, including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia, are meanwhile cutting back on flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.
British Airways said yesterday it is immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the UK government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.
The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.
China has cut off access to the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.
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The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.
Online flight notice boards for the Beijing and Shanghai airports showed numerous cancellations for both domestic and foreign airlines on Wednesday.
Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations apart from Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.
Indonesia’s Lion Air said it has canceled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta, Batam and from Denpasar, in Bali, to 15 airports in China.
Lion Group’s spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantor said the suspension would be phased in gradually and would continue until further notice.
Hong Kong Airlines are cutting the number of flights to the mainland by about halfway through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.
Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways, cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon, and Hong Kong Express.
Helsinki, Finland-based Finnair said it was canceling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing.