Delta, American, and United just suspended all China flights, a red flag as the unprecedented coronavirus wreaks havoc on the airline industry

Associated PressFILE – In this June 24, 2019, file photo a Delta Air Lines aircraft makes its approach at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. Delta Air Lines reports earns Tuesday, Oct. 8. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, FIle)

Delta Air Lines said on Friday that it was suspending all its flights to China, becoming the first US airline to suspend all its routes to the country.

Delta’s suspension, from February 6 to April 30, is also the longest announced by any airline to date.

American Airlines also announced on Friday that it would cancel all China flights beginning immediately. Earlier this week, the airline said it would cancel only some of its flights to China from February 9 to March 27.

American Airlines’ pilots’ union filed a lawsuit on Thursday to stop all flights to and from China amid the outbreak.

United Airlines said earlier this week that it would cancel several flights in February due to decreased capacity. On Friday, it said it would suspend all of its flights to mainland China from February 6 to March 28.

The US State Department issued an enhanced Level 3 travel warning for China, before upgrading it to a Level 4, which represents “do not travel.”

The temporary halting of China flights across the airline industry reflects plummeting demand as people and businesses rethink travel to China amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Ken Herbert, an analyst at the financial-services firm Canaccord Genuity, said on Tuesday that the outbreak posed a “substantial” risk to airlines.

Earlier this week, federal health officials expanded coronavirus screenings to 20 US airports. The government also evacuated diplomatic staff from Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak.

More than 9,700 people have been infected with the virus, and at least 213 people have died. The virus is believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan but has been found throughout China and spread to more than 20 other nations, including the US.

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