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US airlines temporarily suspend flights to China amid coronavirus outbreak

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The news comes after the State Department elevated its warning about China to ‘do not travel’

Delta Air Lines Airbus A320-211 Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

American, Delta, and United Airlines announced they would temporarily suspend all flights to and from China amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The news comes after the US State Department issued its highest travel warning last night against all non-essential travel to the country.

American Airlines said it would suspend all flights to and from the Chinese mainland through March 27th, though acknowledged that “adjustments” may be necessary. Delta said it would suspend flights between February 6th and April 30th. United Airlines said it will suspend flights between February 6th and March 28th.

By suspending their flights, the airlines are in effect taking pressure off the Trump administration to intervene. The State Department issued its highest-level warning not to travel to China Thursday, but so far the White House has declined to go the extra step and ground all flights to and from the country.

Previously the airlines had just suspended some flights or reduced the overall number of flights they were operating in and out of China. British Airways became the first major carrier to suspend all flights to the country January 29th.

A few days later, American Airlines’ independent pilots union, Allied Pilots Association, sued for a temporary restraining order on all American Airlines flights between the US and China. The union also advised its members to decline trips to China amid the escalating outbreak. In a statement, the union said it was “pleased” by American’s decision to suspend flights.

There have been over 9,700 confirmed cases and 213 deaths. The majority of the illnesses are in China, but cases have been reported in nearly two dozen other countries, including the US. No deaths related to the illness have been reported outside of China. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency earlier this week.

Update January 31st, 12:27PM ET: Added a statement from the Allied Pilots Association.

Update January 31st, 1:06PM ET: Added information about United Airlines suspending flights.