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Qantas and Air NZ suspend China flights due to coronavirus curbs

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand said on Saturday they were suspending direct flights from their countries to mainland China in response to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The Australian national carrier’s direct flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai will be halted from Feb. 9 until March 29, it said in a statement published Saturday.

Air New Zealand said its Auckland to Shanghai service would be paused during the same time as the Qantas flights.

Qantas said flights from Australia to Hong Kong would not be impacted by the change, it said, as it also warned the February 9 date would be reviewed and could be brought forward depending on demand from customers.

The decision was made after Singapore and the United States on Friday announced toughened measures to enter their countries for people who had recently travelled through mainland China, Qantas added.

“These entry restrictions pose significant logistical challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights,” the airline said.

Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Standards Officer Captain David Morgan said the decision was made as a result of the travel restrictions and a decline in forward bookings for the next two months.

Qantas had previously flagged its Sydney to Beijing route, which was flown five days a week, would end on February 23 but that date will now brought forward to February 9.

The two airlines join an increasing number of international airlines which are cancelling or severely reducing the number of flights to mainland China as a result of coronavirus.

American Airlines on Friday announced cancellations to Beijing and Shanghai starting immediately and running through March 27, though it will continue to fly to Hong Kong.

United and Delta’s last flights out of mainland China will be Feb. 5, with cancellations running through March 28 and April 30 respectively.

The decision of the American carriers followed moves by Air France KLM SA, British Airways, Germany’s Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic to halt flights.

Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium.

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