American Airlines Extends Flight Suspensions to China, Hong Kong, Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

February 11, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020
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American Airlines has extended its suspension of flights between the United States and mainland China and Hong Kong until late April, it announced on Feb. 10, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the coronavirus outbreak as a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

All flights from the United States to Shanghai and Beijing from the airline’s Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles hubs will be suspended until April 24, while flights from its Texas and Los Angeles hubs will not recommence until April 23 and 24 respectively, American Airlines said in a statement.

The announcement came after the airline initially said it would suspend flights to and from the Chinese mainland beginning Jan. 31 through March 27. The company was sued by the Allied Pilots Association, a union representing 15,000 American Airlines pilots, to try to halt flights to and from China.

American Airlines said Tuesday it was extending the suspension “due to the reduction in demand” for flights to Hong Kong and mainland China from the United States.

Dozens of the world’s airlines halted or curbed flights to and/or from China amid the outbreak, which has spread to roughly two dozen countries around the world.

The announcement came as the virus was officially named COVID-19. CO for corona, VI for the virus, D for disease, and 19 for the year it emerged. WHO wanted a name that did not refer to a location or animal, WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a Tuesday news conference.

“Having a name matters, to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” he told reporters.

He said the world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one,” adding the first vaccine was 18 months away.

The U.S. confirmed its 13th case of coronavirus on Tuesday—an American who was among a group that had been flown out of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China, by the U.S. government. Health officials said he became the first evacuee to test positive for the coronavirus.

The patient had arrived at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, in San Diego last week on one of the State Department flights that ferried Americans from Wuhan. The person was released from a hospital in San Diego and returned to federal quarantine after initial tests indicated they weren’t infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additional testing showed the patient was, in fact, infected—bringing the number of confirmed cases in the United States to 13, the CDC stated. The patient was returned to the hospital.

Eleven patients acquired the virus while in Wuhan; the other two were infected by close contact with two of the patients in the United States. The new case is the seventh in California.

Officials in Riverside County, California, also said on Feb. 10 that no one among the group of 195 evacuees at March Air Reserve Base has the virus. The group, the first to be evacuated from China, would be allowed to leave on Feb. 12, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement.

The patients were being held in mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it has named 11 military bases that could be used as potential quarantine areas for patients infected with coronavirus in the United States if the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities are filled.

“These are tertiary locations, and HHS already has primary and secondary locations identified that are not DOD facilities,” the Department of Defense said in a news release.

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.