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Delta's suspension of China service will cut 28 flights a week at Detroit Metro

Staff and wire reports

Delta Air Lines Inc.'s move to suspend flights to and from China due to the coronavirus outbreak will cut 28 flights per week from the lineup at Detroit Metro Airport.

Delta, American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Inc. said Friday they are halting service to China due to health concerns from the outbreak.

Delta said its last China-bound flight will leave the U.S. on Monday. It will continue flying from China to the U.S. through Wednesday in order to give customers looking to leave China a way to do so. Flights are tentatively scheduled to resume April 30.

Lisa Gass, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Airport Authority, said the Delta suspension would ground 14 flights per week from China to Detroit, and another 14 per week from Detroit to China. Nationwide, Delta operates 42 flights weekly between the U.S. and China. 

Detroit is a regional hub for the airline's Delta routes, with direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Detroit.

American Airlines and United Airlines do not fly directly to China from Detroit. American said Friday that flights flights to Beijing and Shanghai had ceased and planned to resume March 27. United has stopped flights and plans to resume March 28.

Friday's decisions from the airlines came three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began conducting enhanced passenger screenings for the coronavirus at Detroit Metro.

Meantime, The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped more than 500 points Friday as the virus outbreak continued to widen. The United States declared a public health emergency, and President Donald Trump on signed an order that will temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals other than the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who had traveled to China within the last 14 days.

"It is likely that we will continue to see more cases in the United States in the coming days and weeks, including some limited person-to-person transmissions," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "The American public can be assured the full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people."

Delta Air Lines Inc. will suspend all flights to China due to health concerns, becoming the first U.S. carrier to take such action.

As the number of flights in and out of China dwindles, passengers on the planes that are still flying face an eerie scene.

On a flight from Shanghai to New York, the Associated Press reported that nobody spoke for fear of spreading germs. Flight attendants wore masks to serve drinks to passengers, who were also wearing masks. A woman who flew 14 hours from Shanghai to New York said she changed her white face mask every four hours to make sure it was clean.

Flight cleaning-crews are taking extra steps to protect themselves. Crews already fully disinfect armrests, window shades and other hard surfaces after international flights on United Airlines. But if a plane carried a passenger with suspicious symptoms, cleaning crews will wear face shields, goggles and long-sleeved gowns while they clean with a disinfectant approved by the Centers for Disease Control, said United spokesman Charlie Hobart. A plane would be taken out of service and fumigated if a passenger had a confirmed case of coronavirus, he said.

The shutdown of air links between the U.S. and China is deepening the disruption from the coronavirus, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. The halt of flights to Beijing and Shanghai underscores the rising concern, since both cities are hundreds of miles from the focus of the outbreak around Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.

European carriers including British Airways, Air France and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have also announced plans to stop flying to China.

Of the three biggest U.S. airlines, United is most exposed to a downturn in Asia traffic, with 12% of its revenue tied to the region, including Japan and Australia, the J.P. Morgan analysts calculated. About 6% of Delta’s revenue and 4% of American’s comes from the region.

Detroit News Staff Writer Ian Thibodeau contributed, along with Bloomberg and Associated Press