American Airlines had already canceled some flights to China due to the coronavirus outbreak — which was officially designated a global health emergency by the WHO earlier today, having sickened thousands around the world — but the airline’s independent union, Allied Pilots Association, is now suing for a temporary restraining order on all American Airlines flights between the US and China, effective immediately.
In the meanwhile, it’s telling American Airlines pilots that they should refuse to fly to China if they’re asked to do so.
That’s because while American Airlines has canceled some flights, the airline is still flying to China right now — the lawsuit points out that the suspensions don’t begin until February 9th and are only for flights out of Los Angeles, with American Airlines reportedly refusing to suspend flights out of Dallas. By February 9th, pilots will have had to fly from Dallas to China 26 more times, and they’ll be required by law to spend 32 hours on the ground to rest each time, according to the APA. The implication is that pilots might get sick during that time, and the union points out that other major airlines, including British Airways, have completely suspended their flights already.
United Airlines and Delta have also reduced flights because of less demand.
“Due to the known and unknown risks associated with traveling to China right now, concurrent with the filing of our lawsuit, we are directing all American Airlines pilots assigned to flights between the United States and China, other than those on return trips to the United States, to decline the assignment,” reads part of a statement from APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson.
American Airlines tells The Verge that it’s “aware of the filing,” and that the company is actively monitoring the coronavirus situation. “We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and global public health officials to make sure we are taking all necessary precautions for our customers and team members,” wrote a representative.
It’s worth noting that there may be other motives for the union to push American Airlines right now. It’s currently fighting to negotiate a new contract with American Airlines, and it was just yesterday that hundreds of pilots held a public demonstration at DFW International Airport to express their frustration, the Dallas Morning News reported.
We’re tracking all the updates about the coronavirus outbreak, including which tech companies have been affected, in our StoryStream linked here and below.
Update, 7:01 AM ET: Added American Airlines’ statement.