British Airways said Thursday it would cancel all of its scheduled flights to China for a least a month in an effort to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The move follows similar cancellations and restrictions put in place by major carriers around the world as the death toll from the respiratory-focused virus tops 170 and the number of confirmed cases surges to 7,700, overtaking the total of those affected by the global SARS outbreak in 2003.
"We have cancelled flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai up to and including 29 February, 2020, following the (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) advice against all but essential travel," BA said in a statement.
International Consolidated Airlines Group IAG, the parent company of BA, saw shares fall 2.4% in London trading following the cancellation notice to change hands at 577.8 pence each.
Air Canada has adopted a similar cancellation policy with direct flights to and from China, while cabin crew from Air France KLM are seeking cancellations though their flight attendants' union representatives.
The World Health Organisation is set to meet later today in Geneva amid speculation the agency could label the outbreak as a global health crisis, triggering deeper travel restrictions in and out of the world's second largest economy.
China's National Health Commission, meanwhile, has confirmed 170 deaths and more than 7,700 infections since the respiratory-focused virus was first revealed earlier this year, while authorities in Beijing are adding further travel bans and quarantine rules in and around the central industrial city of Wuhan, where there virus is thought to have passes from wildlife to humans in an illegal food market.
American Airlines (AAL) - Get ReportL, the biggest U.S. carrier, said yesterday it will not conduct flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai between February 9 and March 27, while United Airlines (UAL) - Get Report said it will suspend 24 flights between February 1 and February 8 that terminate in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.