Coronavirus outbreak: United Airlines cancels flights to China as Facebook, LG, HSBC others avoid travel

Facebook became the first major US company to announce a travel suspension to China after US' warning.


United Airlines is canceling some flights to China as Facebook and other global companies restrict travel to the country, with concerns over a flu-like virus deepening.

The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China has killed 106 people in the Asian country and spread across the world, rattling financial markets.

The United States warned on Monday that Americans should reconsider visiting all of China, while South Korea elevated its travel warning on Tuesday, advising its citizens to stay away.

 Coronavirus outbreak: United Airlines cancels flights to China as Facebook, LG, HSBC others avoid travel

Representational Image. Credit: AP

Facebook became the first major US company to announce a travel suspension after the US government's warning, saying it had asked employees to halt non-essential travel to mainland China and to work from home if they had travelled there.

(Also read: Everything there is to know about the new coronavirus, the mystery virus from Wuhan, China)

Chicago-based United said it was suspending 24 US flights to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai between 1 Februaru and 8 Februaru due to a significant drop in demand.

Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, banned all staff travel to Chinese-ruled Hong Kong for two weeks and to mainland China until further notice, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

The British-based lender, which has the largest presence among foreign banks in China, also asked staff who have recently visited the country to undergo a self-imposed 14-day quarantine.

US rival Goldman Sachs imposed similar measures, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

In South Korea, home appliances maker LG Electronics put a complete ban on travel to China and has advised employees on business trips in the country to return home as quickly as possible, a company spokeswoman said.

(Also read: Coronavirus update: AIIMS preps isolation ward, death toll reaches 106, new vaccine in the making and more)

South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc said it was urging employees to avoid all non-essential travel to China, while banking group Standard Chartered restricted travel to both mainland China and Hong Kong.

In Germany, auto supplier Webasto, which has 11 sites in China, including in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, has halted all corporate travel to and from China following the virus and the infection of an employee.

Japan's Honda Motor Co Ltd said it recommended employees avoid travel to China, while Nissan Motor Co said it plans to evacuate its Japanese staff and their families in Wuhan via a government-chartered flight.

Falling Travel Demand

Aside from United, other airlines said they were adjusting schedules as companies reassessed the risk of travel to China.

South Korean budget carrier Air Seoul said it will halt all flights to China, while Taiwan's China Airlines announced a further rescheduling of its flights to China from Friday to Feb. 10, cancelling five flights and rearranging the schedules of others.

Taiwan's Eva Airways also said some flights to China may be cancelled.

Germany's Lufthansa said on Monday bookings for its flights to and from China were slightly subdued due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it was reducing overnight layovers for crew at all points in mainland China as much as possible, resulting in some changes to its flight schedule.

International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm that advises companies on travel, said its guidance for now was that business travel to China outside Hubei could continue.

But this could be updated if there were major flight cancellations throughout China and more disruptions to ground transport, including rail, International SOS Regional Security Director James Robertson said.

"Many of our clients have chosen to defer or cancel upcoming travel based on their own individual assessments," Robertson said. "If people do choose to travel they need flexible itineraries accounting for extra time for temperature and health screenings."

 

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