British Airways suspends flights to China


British Airways has suspended all direct flights between the United Kingdom and China in light of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

"We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel," the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The UK's Foreign Office warned people against traveling to mainland China in all but essential cases on Tuesday, report agencies.

It's the most drastic action yet by a major airline as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread. The virus has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 people in China so far, with dozens more cases confirmed in places such as the United States, Japan, Germany and France. British Airways operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Beijing (PKX) and Shanghai (PVG), according to the company's website. Those flights were unavailable to book online through February 29. Passengers can still book BA flights to mainland China via connections in cities such as Hong Kong. The carrier's move comes a day after United Airlines (UAL) temporarily reduced its schedule between the United States and three cities in China.

The US airline said in a statement Tuesday that "significant decline in demand" had forced it to suspend flights from February 1 though February 8 between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

In total, 24 round trips are affected. They are between Hong Kong to San Francisco and Newark; Beijing (PEK) to Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Newark; and Shanghai (PVG) to San Francisco, Newark and Chicago O'Hare.

American Airlines (AAL), Delta Air Lines (DAL) and United all extended change fee waivers through the end of February.

Cathay Pacific (CPCAY), Hong Kong's flagship airline, has said it will reduce the capacity of flights to and from mainland China by half or more until the end of March.

Finland's Finnair is canceling three weekly flights between Helsinki and Beijing (PKX) between February 5 and March 29, and two weekly flights between Helsinki and Nanjing (NKG) between February 8 and March 29, because of the suspension of group travel by Chinese authorities. It will continue to operate flights to Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (PVG), Hong Kong (HKG) and Guangzhou (CAN).