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United Airlines suspends routes to Japan amid rising coronavirus fears

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The first carrier to make broader cuts to service to Asia

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JAPAN-CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

United Airlines said it would be suspending routes to Japan as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the island nation continue to rise. It is the first US carrier to make broader cuts to service in Asia because of the virus.

Routes between Tokyo and US hubs in Los Angeles and Houston would be temporarily canceled starting March 3rd through April 24th, the airline said. The once-daily Newark to Tokyo route would be reduced to just five times a week starting March 28th through April 24th. And the Honolulu to Tokyo flight will be downgraded from a Boeing 777-200 to a smaller 787-8 aircraft starting in April.

Flights to South Korea and Singapore are also being downgraded. United is offering to waive change fees and refund travel to and from select cities. “We’ll stay in close contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations as we continue to evaluate our schedule,” the airline said on its website for coronavirus news.

Delta Air Lines is “currently operating a normal schedule to Japan,” a spokesperson said. A spokesperson for American Airlines said they were “closely monitoring the situation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that older travelers and people with underlying health issues should consider postponing nonessential travel. The State Department issued a warning that mirrors that of the CDC —to “exercise increased caution, not cease travel.”

The three major carriers have already temporarily suspended flights to China where the vast majority of novel coronavirus cases are. United said that flights to China would be suspended until the end of April.

People with travel plans to Italy are also being urged to reschedule their flights. United, Delta, and American are offering travel waivers amid an outbreak of the virus in that country. All three airlines said they are waiving change fees for travelers who reschedule their trips to Italy.

As of Friday, the novel coronavirus had claimed the lives of 15 in Italy and infected more than 655 in the country. The virus has so far killed over 2,800 around the globe and sickened more than 83,000.

Update February 29th, 12:31PM ET: American Airlines statement added