In the latest move to try and contain the coronavirus outbreak, all direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended. Airlines around the world have been suspending their services to China and Hong Kong, and now China Eastern Airlines says that it will suspend flights to Hawaii starting on Monday.
Direct access between Hawaii and China now cut-off
According to the Star Advertiser, China Eastern was the only airline providing direct flights between China and Hawaii. However, as of today, this is no longer true.
“It’s a good thing that China Eastern has suspended their flights, but we still need to be vigilant about any passengers that are redirected through other countries to our state,” – Hawaiian Lieutenant Governor Josh Green
Prior to the service suspension, there was one direct flight from Shanghai to Honolulu, on China Eastern, which was a six-times-weekly service. The last flight of this service, MU572 took off from Honolulu on February 2nd and landed in Shanghai Pudong on February 3rd at approximately 4:41pm.
The previous plan was to have a reduction of two days a week in March, however, the situation has intensified, calling for more intense measures. In fact, American, Delta and United airlines already have suspended service from China.
Quarantine operations across the United States
Federal officials announced on Friday that Honolulu will be one of eleven airports where all flights to the U.S. from China will be funneled. Originally seven, the US Department of Homeland Security recently added four airports. The list is as follows:
- San Francisco
According to Hawaii News Now, the following measures have been put in place:
- Americans returning from the epicenter of the outbreak ― Hubei province, China ― will be quarantined for 14 days. The quarantined travelers will be housed on military bases.
- Others returning from elsewhere in China within the last 14 days will be told to self-monitor. However, they will have to enter the United States through one of the eleven gateway airports (including Honolulu).
- Foreign nationals who have been to China within the last 14 days will temporarily be unable to enter the country. This is not applicable to the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
It is unknown how many flights may divert to Honolulu. “Very few Americans are returning from Wuhan but the virus is dynamic and we have to be very careful,” says Green. He adds that state officials expect to have a military quarantine site on Oahu.
It makes sense that China Eastern will be suspending service to Honolulu given the current situation. Falling demand and outbreak control are extremely good reasons to take action.
Not all airlines will suspend service to China, however. In fact, Dubai based Emirates Airlines announced yesterday that it would be only reducing capacity on flights to China. Removing its superjumbo Airbus A380s on routes between Dubai and a number of Chinese destinations, replacing them with the smaller Boeing 777. Many have been critical of this move, calling on the airline to suspend its operations completely.
Do you think officials and airlines should have reacted more swiftly, earlier? Or has the reaction been appropriate so far? Let us know in the comments.
We reached out to China Eastern Airlines for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publishing this article.