Delta cutting flights to South Korea; JetBlue waives U.S. change fees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) said on Wednesday it would temporarily cut flights to and from South Korea, citing global health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak as U.S. airlines grapple with lagging travel demand.

FILE PHOTO: Delta airlines logo is seen inside of the Commodore Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido


From Saturday through April 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 April 30.

Delta has typically been flying more than two dozen flights a week between Korea and the United States

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

South Korea has the most virus cases outside China andreported 284 new cases on Wednesday for a total of 1,261. A 12th death in the country from the virus was reported on Wednesday. South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases.

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

With U.S. air travel demand slumping, JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) said that starting on Thursday through March 11, it would suspend change and cancel fees for new flight bookings for travel completed by June 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.”

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

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

The two Democrats said U.S. airlines had expressed concern about the scope of requests by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 (UAL.O) said near-term demand to China had almost disappeared and that demand for the rest of its trans-Pacific routes had dropped by 75%.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney

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