Delta cutting flights to South Korea; JetBlue waives US change fees

Delta cutting flights to South Korea; JetBlue waives US change fees

FILE PHOTO: Delta airlines logo is seen inside of the Commodore Arturo Merino Benitez International
FILE PHOTO: Delta airlines logo is seen inside of the Commodore Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile on Apr 25, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Rodrigo Garrido)

WASHINGTON: Delta Air Lines said on Wednesday (Feb 27) it would temporarily cut flights to and from South Korea in half, citing global health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak as US airlines grapple with lagging travel demand.

From Saturday through Apr 30, Delta is suspending service between Minneapolis/St Paul and Seoul-Incheon. Delta will also reduce to five times weekly its services between Seoul and Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle through Apr 30. In total, Delta is shrinking its typical 35 US weekly flights to Korea to 15.

The airline's new service from Seoul-Incheon to Manila, previously scheduled to begin on Mar 29, will now start on May 1.

South Korea has the most virus cases outside China and reported 334 new cases on Thursday for a total of 1,595.

On Wednesday, Hawaiian Airlines Inc said it would suspend its five-times-weekly service between Honolulu and Seoul-Incheon beginning on Monday through Apr 30.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and State Department on Wednesday both issued travel advisories urging Americans to avoid non-essential travel to South Korea.

With US air travel demand slumping, JetBlue Airways Corp said that starting on Thursday through Mar 11, it would suspend change and cancel fees for new flight bookings for travel completed by Jun 1.

The airline said the policy "is designed to give customers confidence that they will not be charged any JetBlue fees for changes or cancellations later given evolving coronavirus concerns".

US carriers have canceled all flights to China through late April, while the United States barred nearly all non-US citizens who traveled recently to China from entering the United States and required US citizens who recently visited China to return home at one of 11 US airports for enhanced screening.

READ: Major US airlines cancel China flights as government steps up warnings

At a news conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he was not imposing restrictions on travelers from additional countries with large numbers of cases like South Korea or Italy. He did not rule out imposing additional travel restrictions at a later date if needed.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the US House of Representatives Transportation Committee, Representative Peter DeFazio, and the chair of the subcommittee overseeing aviation, Representative Rick Larsen, wrote the US Transportation Department asking how the government "plans to effectively prepare for the imminent arrival of a pandemic caused by coronavirus COVID-19 on US soil".

The two Democrats said US airlines had expressed concern about the scope of requests by the CDC and expectations regarding airlines' collection of certain inbound passenger data. The CDC has expressed concern about its ability to access information from the airlines.

On Monday, United Airlines Inc said near-term demand to China had almost disappeared and that demand for the rest of its trans-Pacific routes had dropped by 75 per cent.

Source: Reuters/ga

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