American Airlines Suspends Milan Flights After Crew Refuses To Fly

Filed Under: American

We’ve seen all of the “big three” US airlines significantly scale back their Asia flying due to reduced demand resulting from coronavirus, and now American Airlines has become the first US airline (as far as I know) to scale back Europe flying.

American suspends Milan flights

American Airlines has announced that they’re suspending their flights from both Miami and New York to Milan through April 25, 2020. American Airlines notes that this decision is being made due to reduction in demand.

American says they will accommodate customers on other flights, though options to Milan are much more limited than in the past, as British Airways and other carriers have canceled quite a bit of service to Northern Italy.

Customers with canceled flights can of course get a refund as well, should they so choose.

American crew refused to operate Milan flight

As noted by @xJonNYC, the decision to suspend these flights came after an American Airlines crew allegedly refused to operate the New York to Milan flight last night. AA198 from New York to Milan was scheduled to be operated by a 777-200, and was delayed before being canceled.

Corriere reports that American Airlines initially said that the flight was canceled “for operational reasons,” but when pressed, revealed more details:

“The reason for the cancellation was the staff’s decision not to fly due to fears related to coronavirus in Northern Italy. But we can assure you that all passengers will be accommodated on other flights to Milan.”

While American Airlines says that the routes being canceled for weeks is a result of reduced demand, it sure seems like it might have more to do with crews refusing to operate these flights. That’s because last night a spokesperson said:

“As for our flights to Italy, in the coming days we will evaluate what decisions to make.”

Then just shortly thereafter the airline canceled all flights to Milan for weeks. It sure seems to me like issues with crews may have been a motivating factor in the immediate cancelations.

American employees sure seem to be driving route cancelations here. For example, American canceled flights to both mainland China and Hong Kong after pilots refused to operate these flights. Yep, they even refused to operate Hong Kong flights.

CDC puts Italy on Level 3 warning

All of this comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put Italy on a Level 3 warning, encouraging people to avoid nonessential travel.

On top of that, Lombardy and Venete has been put on a Level 4 warning, encouraging people to not travel there at all.

Bottom line

American Airlines will be suspending flights to Milan through late April. While they say it’s due to reduced demand, it seems most likely that crewing these flights is also a major issue.

It’s one thing if they canceled just one flight to Italy, but they canceled both, and the decision came immediately after a crew refused to operate a flight.

  1. What does it say about an airline when their employees have to refuse to fly to protect their safety?

  2. @ James I’m sure the families of the dead in Italy appreciate you calling Coronavirus a “propaganda machine”

  3. Sorry, but these people fly to places with Malaria, Cholera and other deadly diseases every day, but they are refusing to fly to Italy?
    I’m not playing corona down, I’m concerned, but I don’t panic. After all, most healthy people recover very fast, as we have seen in Bavaria so far.
    I’m starting to be more concerned about peoples who believe, that there is something like the plague going around.

  4. @ James I’m sure the families of the dead in Italy appreciate you calling Coronavirus a “propaganda machine”

  5. @Stuart you don’t know what you are talking about. While James’ message was provocative, it’s not a big deal for 95% of the population.

  6. @mach81 – so to hell with 5% of the population? That’s only about 18,000,000 in the US. Do you have any elderly family members you care about? It is a big deal and worth being aware of a cautious of.

  7. @MACH81,
    This strain of Coronavirus is not well understood. While many people recover, a surprising number of young adults do not. Italy has a robust health care system and the deaths there are alarming. The deaths are a very clear tragedy to the families of those that perish!
    While the odds seem minimal, the mode of contagion of this viral strain seems to be less avoidable than cholera, as one example.

  8. Jon NYC has no idea what he’s talking about. The cancellations coincided with the upgrade to Level 4 for Northern Italy.

  9. @Betty no real evidence that people recover quickly. The facts are that little is known. Can’t help your stupidity…stupid is, stupid does. apparently 2%+ reported death rate. 15%+ reported critical care rate. Some cases of infected individuals who were cleared as having signs of infection again (did they ever recover? were they reinfected?). even a possible case of domestic animal being infected. Most people don’t want to be guinea pigs as the facts come to light.

  10. @Mach81. Of course I don’t. I rely on the articles like the one in the NYT’s today highlighting many scientists saying that this will be as bad if not worse than the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 50 million people. You Pollyanna’s are part of the problem. It’s what is going to get more people killed as because of the naysayers we are going to be grossly unprepared.

  11. @Donato-Italy has a lot of smokers, as do China and Korea. Some medical professionals suspect linkage between smoking and the worst outcomes for this virus. No, this isn’t certain, but it does narrow the focus somewhat.

  12. @JetAway,
    Interesting smoking concerns. That is true for many respiratory issues. I have found that smoking in Italy is age related, since trenitalia went no smoking much has changed. At thi sstage I would reccomend prudence while things sort out.

  13. @Mach81,
    You are possibly spot on with the 95% figure. How does one determine whether they fall in the 95% or 5%?

  14. @orlijr, one of the things that it says about the airline is that they employee staff who have little interest in customer service and poor risk analysis skills.

  15. As an actual doctor who specializes in infectious diseases, I kindly request that those of you who are NOT qualified: please do not make ill-informed prognoses on things about which you have no expertise.

    While the risk to young, healthy men and women is relatively low, their ability to infect others does not change based on their age. For the elderly or ill, the consequences of infection are potentially serious and potentially fatal; so while air travel is not necessarily risky to an individual, it may be risky to a large subset of the population if they come into contact with someone who has it.

    It is not for me to establish the risk profile of each individual, and as a medical professional I wouldn’t do that while we’re still waiting for data. But the idea that the risk is the same as getting into an automobile is inaccurate – think of the scenario instead as a drunk driver speeding on an empty highway until he/she/they decides to turn off into the residential streets. A resident and their children decide to take a walk through those streets. Now think of the consequences. That’s where we’re at – drunk drivers on a highway who have yet to decide where to go next. To that end, the risk is incalculable.

    Please don’t argue about whether someone is overreacting. With infectious diseases about which we know very little, there’s no such thing. I can only recommend that you wash your hands carefully, especially on airplanes.

  16. American tried to force the crew to work but then they would have gotten stuck in Milan.
    How do they get back ?

  17. Just to expand on my thought, as re-reading it seems like I don’t care and it’s not serious. Italy has done more testing just in Lombardy alone than the whole France. Crews are irrational and ignorant. If Paris/London/Frankfurt had been as preventive in care as Italy, there would
    Be no more flights to either of these cities.

  18. @Betty. Are you saying there are no ways to prevent cholera and malaria?
    Meanwhile no one wants to mention the virus that was first spread by a flight attendant.

  19. Okay, this isn’t entirely true.

    AA had already decided to cancel these flights, but was sending out JFK-MXP with the intent of requiring the operating crew to turn around and come right back. That’s a 20 hour work day and AA tried to TRICK the crew into working a Milan turn. The crew said no, we won’t come right home with no rest, and so the flight was cancelled.

    Please note: the crew had NO problem working to or laying over in MXP. It was that AA was trying to CON us into coming home immediately.

  20. What employment contract provision allow employees to veto management decisions? I’d love to have such clauses in my employment contract. It’s positively European…

  21. they should place all of italy on lockdown, close its borders, and cancel ALL flights in and out of the country for at least 14 days. this has to stop spreading in europe.

  22. This is an overreaction. Deaths for seasonal influenza in Europe are over 30,000 annually. It really takes a little precaution and this situation isn’t worse compared to others. Not even during MERS and similar diseases these behaviors occurred.

  23. The spokesperson was telling a convenient version of the truth…

    the Cabin crew were not told the pilots were to fly to Milan then turn around and deadhead home.. no rest, just come back..
    the pilots were told NOT to inform the cabin crew. so that they would go, and be forced to work the flight back..fortunately the cockpit crew were not going to betray the cabin crew and told them .. and the crew said NO!
    Not the way to treat your employees.
    this was not fear from the Staff, this was shenanigans by management!
    I have this from a member of the crew.

  24. @JoeinNYC you have really touched on the most profoundly disappointing way that most people appear to be treating and viewing the situation. 99 percent of comments that one reads are about the individual’s statement of their own particular risk tolerance. “This is what I am comfortable doing or not doing for me.”

    But infectious diseases are largely about the herd. Every decision has individual consequences and consequences for the herd. Virtually nobody I know seems to understand that point. Individual choices right now are community choices. Each individual has the power right now to make decisions that will affect many others.

    Reasonable minds can differ on what is or isn’t best right now. And this is a developing situation. But it is worrisome that nobody even seems to see this as the paradigm for looking at these issues. It is tempting to think people are selfish or that we have all become callous self interested jerks because of social media or whatever.

    I actually don’t believe that. I just think people are very ignorant when it comes to questions about how to think about public heath issues. And don’t really seem to care about changing their paradigm if it interferes with the personal opinions they have formed.

    It’s especially scary because this particular Coronavirus is very unlikely to be last one of these things that we see, and no matter how this one turns out we need to be able to think proactively not reactively. And it is hard when people don’t seem even interested in very core principles.

  25. Many comments miss the point. In this particular case, it is solely about the crew not wishing to place themselves in (very negligible) harm’s way. That’s their choice. An overreaction, but their choice.

    However, the Worldwide situation is to limit spread. Not because it’s deadly (2% is low statistically), but because it could overwhelm medical services Worldwide, placing many other people with other conditions at risk as hospital filled with COVID-19 cases.

    We are in an unusual situation. Individuals need to put personal needs aside for global reasons. Self-isolate if you have the slightest possibility of being infected (not the selfish “but I need to go food shopping, go to the game, meet up with friends”).

    Worldwide, there are professionals -WHO, CDC, ECDC, US-State, UK-FCO, etc, etc – issuing guidance. Simple. Follow it. In the case of flight crews – is it “essential travel”? I don’t know, but it needs clarification.

    If, just for once, people stopped panicking, spreading rumour and fake news, and behaved like grown-ups, followed instructions and guidance, COVID-19 would still be a problem, but one that could be dealt with.

  26. If you drew a circle around all the climate-change deniers, and another circle around all the virus-crisis deniers, I wonder how many people wearing red baseball caps would be in both circles.

  27. @Ross…Now do one that encircles those offering irrelevant, nonsensical comparisons and who identify as a “progressive”.

  28. Lol at the armchair experts in this thread. You clowns have no idea about the epidemiology of this virus.

    If an individual chooses not to undertake non essential travel to Italy (which includes cabin crew employed duties) who are you to tell them what do? Losers.

  29. I was just in the Delta Sky Club JFK – one hand sanitizer behind the reception desk – none at entrance, none at food stations where utensils bring liberally shared, none anywhere. And of course nobody monitoring this. Brought to attention of lounge manager who scratched head – JFK in middle of pandemic and airlines not doing bare minimum – it’s beyond comprehension…..irresponsible….fasten your seatbelts belts folks we are in for a bumpy ride

  30. JKmd since when is jfk the epicentre of a pandemic as you describe ?
    Common sense tells you that if you are concerned about a virus at the best of times , simply don’t eat from a buffet where people share utensils and breath over the food , wash your hands thoroughly and use paper towels rather than the drier

  31. @ AA FA, DOMI,
    It sounds unrealistic to suggest that AA was going to have crews work a round trip TATL. They obviously would time out. I am guessing that the plan was for them to work eastbound and Cabin Crew and flight crew would be passengers on the turnaround. My limited understanding is that these hours are not paid and more comfortable in bed. It is likely that flight crew would get flat seats and not enough for all of the cabin crew, they might have to experience economy on AA.

  32. It looks like the Seattle area might well host the first substantial outbreak of COVID19 in the United States. Do you think American Airlines will stop all flights to Seattle?

    Does anyone really believe there are no cases in DC or New York City? Seattle is starting to have more cases because we are doing more testing of people with no China connection. This is the tip of the iceberg.

  33. “Sorry, but these people fly to places with Malaria, Cholera and other deadly diseases every day, but they are refusing to fly to Italy?”

    Malaria is a mosquito borne disease and has both a vaccine and known treatment. The fatality rate is about 0.20% meaning a little more dangerous than the flu. Prevention can be achieved with using bug spray on the person.

    Cholera is a waterborne disease and has an effective treatment. Prevention means drinking bottled water.

  34. This is getting ridiculous. Overreaction hyped by the media always chasing something sensational. South Korea and Italy have many cases simply because their government is proactively testing many more people (with or without symptoms) for free. France and Japan have much less cases simply because their governments are only testing people with symptoms. Our own incompetent CDC even distributed ineffective testing kits to the states. Right now 50 Life Care Centers Seattle members are waiting for test results because these 50 are exhibiting symptoms. If our CDC wants to be responsible, it should test and screen all personnel at Life Care Center.

  35. Can AA reroute the NYC & MIA passengers on the EWR-MXP flights via Emirates? Is that flight currently operating or has it been canceled?

  36. If we use only defective test kits and then limit their distribution, we will have prevented an epidemic. At least, until enough people die. Or, like that guy in China, recover but need lung transplants.

    Oh, you’re right. We have been limiting distribution of test kits, even if they are defective. At least in this country. They’re widely available elsewhere, including China and Korea (where they have drive-through clinic testing).

  37. I’m italian and i’m living in Milan… Sincerely the situation is not so bad . The coronavirus situation is well managed by sanitary autorities (that fortunately are different from government). The contaminated areas are in quarantine and in Milan people are normally living their life, even if schools, monuments, cinemas, theatres, gyms are closed. In Milan the risk to take coronavirus is very low.

  38. Suspend them without pay. And yes C19 is largely another media hype with the CDC sadly towing the line. Visit the CDC website and see for yourself. Absolutely no scientific support or helpful info. There’s nothing to say. It reads like a CNN story, complete with how not to be mean to Asian Americans. The flu each year affects more people.

  39. American Airlines and other airlines are actually helping to contain and control the virus by not bringing it here to our boarders.

  40. AA flew to – and had crews stay in – CCS for many years (I’m talking after the Chavez presidency began and the crime rate spiked, starting around 2003) and doing that was far more dangerous to life and health than flying to Milan or most of these other places would be. I was surprised that it took AA as long as it did to stop doing that.

    No, this coronavirus scare is an example of breathless media hysteria working to destroy an industry (and perhaps the entire economy). And, thanks to that media hype, stocks are crashing and people are freaking out. All over a virus that may be bad, but not nearly as serious as a number of other dangers that people blithely ignore. 98% of those who get the virus recover fully. This isn’t like the 1919 flu outbreak, SARS nor MERS.

  41. I was lucky enough to get the JFK-MXP flight the day before.
    But fear not, the virus is already there. Italy was not the source of an outburst, it’s simply one the first countries other than China to make some serious tests. As it appears, the virus was present in Italy since december, and other European countries are now finding lots of cases with no connections to China, meaning that for many weeks it has spread, disguised as seasonal flu. Germany reported an exceptionally high peak of flu this year. It’s not covid19 until it’s proven, and if you are treated for severe flu you don’t get tested if you haven’t travelled to areas with proven presence of the virus. So basically, as long as you didn’t declare you went to China, you could not receive the test. Same seems to be happening in the US. The virus is just too subtle to control, but it can be slowed down like China did with a gigantic effort. Preventing it from reaching the country at all is a futile feat, it’s much better to prepare the beds in intensive care -lots of beds. Possibly free of charge.

  42. What about Emirates Milan to JFK fifth freedom? Are they still operating that – the ME carriers are still milking this now

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