American Airlines Pilots File Lawsuit, Refuse To Fly To China

Filed Under: American, Unions

I’d be surprised if all US airlines don’t suspend China flights across the board within 24 hours…

Union suing American over China flying

Yesterday afternoon the Allied Pilots Association (APA) filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, and told their pilots to stop flying to China immediately.

The APA is suing American seeking the immediate halt of all American Airlines flights between the US and China. In the letter, APA President Captain Eric Ferguson also calls on American pilots who are scheduled to fly to China to refuse to do so:

Consistent with our lawsuit, I am directing all APA pilots to cease flight operations between the United States and China. Until further notice, if you are scheduled, assigned, or reassigned a pairing into China, decline the assignment by calling your Chief Pilot or IOC Duty Pilot. Inform them you are declining in accordance with the CDC and WHO declarations.

Here’s what the union is presenting as the facts of the situation:

  • The coronavirus is a highly contagious disease that is nowhere near being fully understood, let alone contained.
  • On Jan. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded its travel advisory to avoid all nonessential travel to China.
  • The U.S. government has evacuated more than 200 personnel assigned to Wuhan, China, back to the United States for screening.
  • British Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, and other carriers have already suspended flights into China.
  • Today, the first documented case of coronavirus transmission in the United States occurred in Chicago.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the epidemic an “international public health emergency.”

American Airlines has already announced that they will reduce flying to mainland China:

  • American will be temporarily suspending their flights from Los Angeles to Beijing and Shanghai as of February 9, 2020
  • American will be continuing to operate their flights from Dallas to Beijing and Shanghai

American Airlines 787-8

American already canceling flights

Last night’s Los Angeles to Hong Kong flight has been delayed by over 11 hours, allegedly because the pilots refused to operate the trip.

Today doesn’t look much better. All three American Airlines flights to mainland China have been canceled today.

On top of that, American’s Dallas to Hong Kong flight has already been delayed by several hours.

Different takes from different airlines

It’s interesting to see the different approaches that airlines have taken to this situation. British Airways was the first major global carrier to suspend all flights to mainland China. They claimed they were doing this for the safety of their crews.

Interestingly, going off the same information from authorities, American, Delta, and United, all reduced service to China, but didn’t cut it completely. When cutting the service, all three airlines cited reduced demand as the reason, rather than safety concerns.

Bottom line

I think it’s inevitable that American will now simply suspend all flights to China, given that pilots are refusing to fly. It’s not like they’re making any money on these flights anyway, so it seems like the wise decision either way.

I suspect Delta and United pilots will make similar demands shortly, and we’ll see the same outcome.

Given the latest information on the coronavirus situation, my thinking changed, and I ultimately canceled my flight through Beijing. For more on the rapidly-developing situation, check out these posts:

  1. are you happy to breach GDPR and publish his phone number ?

    Hong Kong isn’t really an issue , but most Americans wouldn’t know

  2. @Icarus

    LOL, Exactly you have no idea about Hong Kong, like most Americans.


  3. The notice was published by them on their APA site, with the phone number, to the general public. No need to redact the number.

  4. Eskimo. It’s safer to travel via HKG. I was there yesterday I meant transit There is no restriction on travel to HK
    You’re more likely to be shot in parts of the US

  5. Even if HK isn’t included in the travel warning, plenty of us have been told to avoid it by our employers as part of “Greater China” (and required to not go into the office for 2 weeks if we do go there), so demand will drastically drop there too.

  6. I’m surprised flights to HK are not being given the same flexibility as flights to PEK/PVG. Air Canada had me jumping through hoops to cancel my flight to HK this weekend (even though I was willing to accept the fees and penalties) and the only reason I received a fee waiver in the end was because my connection from the US to Toronto was cancelled due to technical issues with the plane.

  7. Why put quotation marks around the word facts? Do you doubt these facts? If so provide some evidence that the facts listed are incorrect

    They are facts – all the issues listed are true and not open to debate.

  8. Hi i believe the Unions are correct, i,m suprised at Delta, as these planes , crew can go onto fly other routes, so not only the crew , plus their passengers could be at risk, they need to stop services now,

  9. The virus is either rapidly spreading or the authorities cannot keep up with the number of sick people in China to give complete tracking metrics. Singapore announced today that they are no longer allowing visitors from mainland China. Unfortunately, I think airlines need to suspend travel to China until the situation improves. I think the pilots are right.

  10. I’m surprised that all three US carriers continue

    all the Chinese airlines continue to service their routes, so if any one needed to evacuate China, it’s not like they would be stranded.

  11. When the state department and CDC says do not travel, it makes sense for pilots to uh not travel.

    Another good example of the value of unions. HQ is happy to send employees into a pandemic if it means making a dollar.

  12. Interesting that they sue over this and I do not recall any lawsuits when AA was making crews stop in Caracas. And nothing in China holds a candle to what goes on in Venezuela.

  13. @ChrisC +1

    I’m also intrigued that Lucky tells us American Airlines “announced”, but British Airways just “claimed”.

    Does Lucky “claim” to be a knowledgable travel blogger? Or is he one?

  14. Any chance Chinese carriers will be barred from entering the US? Israel yesterday banned all Chinese carriers.

  15. Why is this coming from the pilots union and not from the crew? Pilots are locked up while crew is serving and getting up close to passengers so much more dangerous

  16. @Eskimo some people are clueless

    When speaking of a China that includes Hong Kong and Taiwan however American doesn’t fly to Taipei , China.

  17. @D3KingAmerican

    Taipei is in China, however not the Communist China you’re supporting here. As a matter of fact, if one wants to experience the millenary Chinese culture, look no further that Taiwan, where years of communist rule and purges have not destroyed the people’s culture and traditions.
    I already know the answer but:
    Why do Hong Kong people have their own distinct passports if they’re part of the one China?

  18. @stogieguy7 , international crews dont spend time in Venezuela. They turn around immediately or go to Aruba for rest. The risk in Venezuela is crime, and there’s not really an epidemic of shootings at the airport. No different than flying into Memphis or Birmingham , which have sky high gun crime rates.

  19. Our son lives in Vietnam and has tickets To Chicago on China Eastern Airlines (April 9-19) with connections in Shanghai. Because he is traveling for his brother’s wedding, should we re-book with United who has connections in Tokyo?

  20. @ChrisC

    Be careful when you speak logically based on real facts about this issue. Some people here will slam you and/or call you a racist…

    I am glad airlines and countries are taking this matter into their own hands, instead of waiting on China.

  21. @D3KingAmerican

    I’m not going into geopolitics. This is purely risk of spreading the virus.

    Mainland crossed into HK countless times. With numbers not transparent, there is a higher chance HK is already a high risk zone. Think of what country a Chinese national can transit through and speaks Mandarin. There are 5 million who left Wuhan before the lockdown. Does anyone think none of them are infected?


  22. @ kathypolvi. It’s in April and why ask here ? I guess it’s upto your son otherwise you will forfeit the ticket and have to buy a new one

  23. I understand both the cockpit crew and the cabin crew of a SriLankan Airlines A330 volunteered to fly to Wuhan to bring back a group of Sri Lankan students to Colombo.

  24. Does all this Not flying make common sense.
    1. BA says its not flying.
    2. Soon after AirFrance, Lufthansa, American goes limited.

    Dum de dum dum. Is Cathay still flying, AirChina, EVA and a whole cast of other “non nationally named” carriers are flying. Quantas says Feb 9th will stop.

    The whole world and the rest of us are just dum dums. I was surrounded by Chinese tourists in Europe this past week. Planes, trains and shopping centers.

  25. So Allied Pilots Association make statement that 737MAX is safe to fly after 2 flights crashed, which caused deaths of all onboard which they had no control over.

    Conversely, they take court case just to avoid a virus broadly similar to the flu, in which you control the outcome in terms of your own cleanliness, and which has had no reported transmission outside the originating country.


  26. @Icarus Not Lucky nor this blog are from the EU, so he’s not under any obligation to follow the GDPR.

  27. @Mh so since they didnt do that in the past, are they supposed to continue making the same mistakes, then??

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