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United Airlines, British Airways & other carriers suspend flights to China in bid to halt coronavirus spread

United Airlines, British Airways & other carriers suspend flights to China in bid to halt coronavirus spread
Major airlines across the world have suspended travel in and out of China in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the deadly new coronavirus strain which has killed more than 130 people since the outbreak started last month.

United Airlines has cancelled 24 round trips with destinations in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong between February 1 and February 8, due to "significant decline in demand for travel to China," the company said on Tuesday. The airline had previously introduced additional health screenings for passengers flying in and out of China. Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are conducting health checks in 20 major airports across the US, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, San Francisco International Airport, and Los Angeles Airport.

British Airways suspended direct flights from London to Beijing and Shanghai until March on Wednesday, after the UK Foreign Office advised against travelling to China. "The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority," the airline said.

Air France has suspended trips to Wuhan, the city in central China that's been hit the hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, until March as well. The Paris-based carrier, which is the only European airline with a direct route to Wuhan, has given tourist groups the option of a full refund for tickets to or from China, or the ability to rebook them free of charge.

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Finnish national carrier Finnair stopped servicing routes to Beijing and Nanjing in eastern China, while Air Canada canceled some of its 33 weekly flights to the country. The Canadian airline allowed travelers to cancel their booking and change their flights for free, as did Dutch flagship carrier KLM.

Russia's Ural Airlines said it will halt travel on a number of routes which are "traditionally used by a large number of Chinese tourist groups," including flights from Russia's Far East to Paris, Rome, Munich, and Japan's Sapporo. The company earlier stopped carrying passengers to the Chinese cities of Ordos and Xi'an in the north and central parts of the country respectively, as well as to Haikou on the South China Sea's Hainan Island.

South Korean low-cost airline Seoul Air has cancelled trips to the Chinese cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi, with Jeju Air and Eastar Jet following suit. Meanwhile, Indonesia stopped all flights by national carriers in and out of Wuhan last week. On Wednesday, Southeast Asia's biggest airline by fleet size, Jakarta-based Lion Air, stopped servicing Chinese routes.

The new coronavirus outbreak has killed over 130 people in China and infected nearly 6,000 globally as the deadly disease continues to spread. Chinese authorities have said that the virus is now spreading more rapidly, while medical knowledge about the infection remains "limited."

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