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United Airlines Cuts U.S., International Flights in Response to Coronavirus

The coronavirus has forced many companies to reassess their operations over the past few weeks.

United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report announced Wednesday afternoon that it is reducing its U.S. and Canada flights by 10% and international flights by 20% in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

United said that it is also implementing a hiring freeze, delaying merit-based salary increases and offering employees the option to take an unpaid leave of absence.

On Wednesday, executives from Southwest  (LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Co. Report, American Airlines  (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report and United all met with President Trump where the president reportedly sought to reassure the airline industry that the U.S. has the epidemic under control.

The president told the group that while the travel restrictions the government has imposed is hurting the sector, it remains safe to fly to the destinations serviced by the airlines.

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The U.S. has reported nearly 140 coronavirus infections and nine deaths.

As of this writing, over 3,000 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus, the overwhelming majority of which have been in mainland China. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have each cautioned countries worldwide to prepare for a potential pandemic after outbreaks in countries such as Iran and Italy, and the continuing news is having major effects on world economies and markets.

On a day when the S&P 500 was up more than 3.6%, United shares were up 1.0% to $58.87 and American rose 2.1% to $18.23. However, Delta Air Lines  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report rose 3.8% to $47.95 and Southwest rose 2.7% to $47.95 on Wednesday afternoon.