As health concerns mount and waiver options grow some airlines are going a step further in their response to the virus outbreak in China. British Airways is taking the significant step of halting its flights to Shanghai and Beijing effective immediately. A formal announcement is expected early Wednesday in London.
Based on documents reviewed by PaxEx.Aero the carrier’s flights BA39 and BA169 on 28 January 2020 will be the last flights in for a month. The crew working those flights will return as passengers and all downline crew will also return on the BA38 and BA168 flights leaving China on 29 January.
The statement set by airline executives to crewmembers reads, in part:
The situation regarding the new coronavirus in China is constantly developing and tonight the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office position has changed, advising against all but essential travel to China. As you would expect, this situation has been monitored constantly for the last week and updates have been provided for our colleagues on the One portal. A contingency group has met again tonight (Tuesday) to define a plan and there will be a further operational update early on Wednesday.
The safety of our colleagues remains our priority. The aircraft currently airborne to PVG and PKX will return with all crew currently downroute in these locations… For our Chinese crew based in PKX and PVG who are currently on trips in London, we are making arrangements to get you home.
The company also notes in the memo that it is monitoring other stations in the region but will continue to operate those routes for now.
Inventory on flights through 29 February appears to be zeroed out indicating that the carrier expects the cuts to last at least that long.
The news follows on United Airlines announcing earlier today that it will cull 24 flights to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong in the coming week.
The British Airways news is far more significant given the depth and duration of the cuts. It surpasses the waivers that had been issued by many airlines and the move by the Chinese government to curtail all group travel packages out of the country. The cuts are likely to increase in the coming days as more countries issue similar statements advising against travel to the region.