Wow: Delta Cancels All Flights To China Until May

Filed Under: Delta

Update: Delta plans on resuming China flights as of June 2020.

Over the past couple of days we’ve seen quite a few airlines temporarily suspend flights to China. This started with British Airways, but several other airlines have followed.

Up until now we’ve seen American, Delta, and United, all reduce frequencies to China, though up until now none have canceled service altogether. I assumed that would be changing very shortly, especially as American Airlines pilots have filed a lawsuit against the airline, as they’re refusing to fly to China over safety reasons (update: in the meantime American Airlines has also canceled mainland China flights).

Well, Delta has now become the first US airline to completely suspend flights to China.

Delta will suspend all US to China flights between February 6 and April 30, 2020. This is interesting on a couple of levels:

  • The airline isn’t suspending flights immediately, claiming that’s in order to “ensure customers looking to exit China have options to do so”
  • They’re not just suspending flights for a few weeks, but all the way through April 30, which is a long time

I’m curious to see if Delta actually still operates flights to China in the next few days, or if their union representing pilots objects (their flight attendants can of course express concern as well, but aren’t unionized).

In the press release, Delta explains that this decision is being made “due to ongoing concerns related to the coronavirus.” If that’s the case, one would think that they’d be suspending flights right away.

Those who are impacted by these cancelations have a few options:

  • Rebook on a flight after April 30
  • Request a refund
  • Contact Delta to discuss additional options

Delta currently offers 42 weekly flights between the US and China, including daily flights from Detroit and Seattle to Beijing, and daily flights from Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Seattle, to Shanghai.

Are you surprised to see Delta suspend flights to China all the way through April 30?

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. Wow.Now that the WHO has declared this as a global health emergency more airlines will most likely cancel flights to China. Even though Delta is suspending flights for a long time, I believe China Eastern will still be flying to the US from China and since Delta and China Eastern are partners, I’d think Delta would rebook affected flyers through China Eastern to go to USA.

  2. I saw a trip report from last week DTW-PEK on the DL a350, and the flight had 27 passengers on it. Four in Delta One and 23 in Main. Nobody in Premium Select. This is not surprising.

  3. Italy has banned all flights to /from China. This includes Cathay Pacific and HKG. not sure about Taiwan
    If CX suspends all flights to Euro/NAM it will be terrible. They have a huge amount of transfer traffic

  4. Its good they did it, but it makes no sense that not all airlines are suspending flights.
    People can just jump on another airline and spread the virus, so seems like a pointless effort.

  5. We likely need a blockade (no flights, no border crossings etc) if we actually want to contain this virus, but its probably already too late.

  6. @Lucky, aside from this article but related to the current situation, would you please write an article about tourist that trap in hotel in Wuhan? How they (tourists and hotels) are handling the situation? If I am in that situation, not sure what I should do? We always hear a good story about staying at best place but rarely hear the other side. So far there is only one article that I can find about this.

  7. This seems like more of a commercial decision than anything else. Demand for flights to China has collapsed and flying a bunch of empty planes halfway around the world is awfully expensive. Cloaking it in concern for crew safety seems dubious. Maybe cynical, but I have a hunch that if people were still clamoring for flights to China, Delta would be happy to sell them tickets.

  8. I’d like to think Delta is getting creative with crews – like work the inbound and deadhead back. It’s definitely better for customers that they don’t just immediately stop flying there. As an airline, I feel, it’s your responsibility not to strand people and this cancellation allows anyone that’s there a few days to get out before flights end.

  9. @sam commercial interests = people’s interests. You can have one with out the other. That’s the beauty of the market system.

    For the remaining few flights that are going to China there needs to be N95 masks on board and all people boarding should be required to wear them the entire flight and be subjected to tests as they land to avoid further spread of the virus. The airport scanners are useless when the incubation period is 2 weeks.

  10. @ David S — Presumably the perceived risk isn’t just what’s going on in the ground in China, but the potential for someone on the flight to have the coronavirus.

  11. @ Billy — Yep, for most airlines it does, though in the case of Delta, they don’t fly to Hong Kong.

  12. @unitedef. With regards to masks. They have to be removed for drinking and eating. You propose all inflight service is suspended ? What about minors and infants ? You can’t guarantee everyone would comply

  13. FYI there is no advisory for Hong Kong. It’s still a separate entry on the US state dept website. That said , many people may just check China and assume it’s the same

  14. Will be interesting to see if United follows suit now.

    I have travel with Hainan in February, and now I have to see about procuring a refund. I also booked one of those Singapore First Class awards on SIN => PEK for the few days that they were pricing at 35k miles; sad that my flight for that got cancelled as well. I’m assuming Alaska would try to reprice to the new 75k amount if I were to switch dates?

  15. @kai ko I mentioned there was no official advisory. It’s a personal choice You should also avoid travelling to parts of the US, given the fact of people can walk around freely with guns and you’re far more likely to be shot than catch a virus

    Understandably it’s worrying. Hopefully there’s a solution and I believe scientists in San Diego are working hard to find an antidote as the Chinese government provided them with info

  16. It seems like Racism and fear of the Other. The Flu kills far more people than nCOV is killing. 4% vs 2%. Most people are making full recoveries and even the worst symptoms are not as bad as flu. Other countries dont stop flying to the US every winter when it becomes a hot bed of Influenza.
    This panic is affecting the economy. The Media and WHO needs to be more responsible.

  17. It’s also probably not easy to get FAs to want to fly these routes, especially when you’re fending off a unionization attempt.

  18. Glad to see Delta making this move. My guess for why they’ve cancelled so long is so that they can plan to utilize these aircraft for other routes. Might park some of their less fuel efficient 767s and put the A350s in service instead.

  19. I assume each jet flying back from China gets a very thorough cleaning and disinfection before returning to service elsewhere.

    Now I’m curious to see what they’re doing down in Australia as that’s where I’m heading next. Hopefully QF and VS follow.

  20. Hopefully other airlines follow suit. I’m stuck with a non refundable ticket for a China Southern airlines flight in April and I’m terrified to go there.

  21. I have been a Delta flight attendant for 50 years. I am proud Delta stood up for the health and well-being of passengers and crew. Hopefully progress will be made regarding finding a cure, lives will be saved, the economy will not suffer the long-term impact of ongoing reduced tourism, fear will not be a constant presence on everyone’s mind and life in China will soon return to it’s former status. Until then the focus should be on worldwide safety and the wellbeing of our planet and its dwellers. A sick planet cannot remain a populated planet.

  22. The full moon on 8FEB marks the last day of the lunar new year. It’s nice to know DL is tapering off instead of implementing an abrupt end. They also need to allow changs to passengers on all the codeshared flights via ICN.

  23. Having flown through Hong Kong (HKG) this week and seeing the precautions that they are taking, I do find it interesting that when airlines suspend flights to “China” they forget that Hong Kong is a part of China (albeit a SAR).

  24. Does the new U.S. Policy mean Chinese Airlines, and Asian airlines that fly and have to ties like Cathay, Singapore, and Korean will be banned from flying to U.S and all Asian flights will be cancelled?

  25. @ Shawn. The current US position effectively bans China flights as we aren’t letting foreign nationals that have been to China.

  26. I am flying through China in a few weeks on Delta and saw this announcement about Delta canceling flights. I called Delta today and spoke to a supervisor who confirmed that they are canceling flights to China but not all flights. They are canceling based on the lower demand. As of now my flight from SEA-PVG on Feb 15 is a go…

  27. It’s ridiculous. People are freaking out. There was a comparison by the CDC of other diseases and people are just over reacting. Delta has not really cancelled all flights. They do operate through their Skyteam partners. Also, they have said late April/early May, but could bring this date forward.

  28. Booked to and from Bali March 15. To via EVA. From via CX. Now if Bali, Taiwan and Hong Kong don’t end up on the do not fly list.

    The “to” is booked via LifeMiles miles. The “from” is booked via American Airlines miles. Curious how each will address the issues, if issues arise. But I do think American Airlines would be the better option to address issues. Good thing Bali is cheap both for hotels and flights as the trip might be extended for a few days if issues arise…

  29. As we all know no airline whatsoever, and especially no US airline is making money by flying to China. You see these flights at rock bottom prices all the time. I can imagine the US carriers are quite pleased to not conduct flights and lose with every mile and every passenger they are flying to China. TO me this has nothing to do with the virus.

  30. Ugh, just got bit by this change. Booked a one-way award to KIX via PVG early April. Now I’m worried My 80k ticket is going to become much more expensive.

  31. Routes were probably already unprofitable due to trade war so they can cancel a few extra months and say it’s from the corona virus without getting any flak for it.

  32. i’m surprised that none of the prior posts noted the BAN that is NOW in-place effective within a few days (one person mentioned it was coming). Aside what’s already mentioned is concern for the THOUSANDS of passengers already in the US or other countries over in the past couple weeks; who may have been unknowingly exposed and exposing… since the real problem is the spread WHILE victims are asymptomatic. Hence IR (infrared) fever testing is meaningless other than for those with fever; because other passengers may already be carriers…. the incubation period is the problem. Now, proposed isolation of inbound passengers is reasonable; but we’ve got to depend on self-reporting by those already here. Thoughts?

  33. @Jason – I would think it is not a problem. You can change the flight now for free. You also may consider Chinese carriers that seem to still be operating.

  34. We’re in Shanghai, as are most of our friends. No one I know is sick; everyone is self quarantining at home. It seems to me that the media portrayal is highly dramatized vs what’s really happening here. About 2/3 of the businesses are closed, there’s a run on masks, but other than that everyone’s fine. This is a city of 35 million, and we currently have 180 sick and 1 dead. It’s hardly the apocalypse. The virus is not particularly contagious and even less deadly. The receptors that it binds to are very deep in your lungs and it can’t be transmitted through the air. It’s transmitted through water droplets from coughing or sneezing, which fall to the nearest surface as soon as they are released from the sick person. To catch it on a plane, you’d need an infected person to cough into your face at the same moment that you’re taking a deep breath in. It’s nuts that airlines are stranding people and turning their back on China. I understand the economic pressures, but work it out. Cancelling three months worth of flights based on the current information is insane.

  35. Great Potential News: HIV drugs may cure the Wuhan virus within 48 hours .. so far 2 patients in Thailand recovered and Hong Kong is doing a human trial on several patients starting now with US antivirals.

  36. @Danielle LeClerc travelling to China is still a risk. A lot of us would rather keep our families safe and travel elsewhere. At least the airlines that are cancelling the flights are giving their customers options. Whereas the Chinese airlines are forcing us to take the flights / lose our money, by not offering refunds.

  37. @Rach – The Chinese airlines are offering refunds as well and free changes. The Chinese airlines for the moment are still operating to the US, but to many other places from China they have canceled or temporarily suspended flights. The risk of going to China could be debatable. Unless you go to the epicenter of the incident, then it’s very different. In terms of land, China has a large area.

  38. @Danielle – I agree with you and would go as far as to say that we compared some of the media articles compared to the official sources which were not only different and overblown. I think one of the reasons is that the flight crew refuses to fly there due to the virus.

  39. Thank you OUTRAGED – your comments are on point. Hysteria not based on fact. Leader of WHO should resign. This is media hype & I believe politically motivated to push China down.

  40. @Mike – They have suspended some flights.
    @andrew and @OUTRAGED – I agree with you because the official sources from the US government are very different from what comes out of the media

  41. @ dave crothall – That’s the point. The news and media makes a general statement about the situation but lacks key words like “some” which changes all the meaning of what’s going on

  42. @Iamhere The Chinese airlines are only allowing some cancellations. e.g. people travelling via China Southern flights in April do not have an option to cancel. Which isn’t great because a lot of people (myself included) do not want to go in April. Also the arrival destination (Indonesia) has banned flights from China, but yet the flight still exists. So will have to see how this pans out. Hopefully they cancel the flight soon.

  43. This effectively means Delta has withdrawn from Beijing Capital two months earlier than planned, as I am assuming whenever the Beijing flights resume (whether on May 1 or at a later date), they’ll be operating from Daxing airport

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