Korean Air Suspends Shenyang Route Over Positive COVID Cases

Korean Air has temporarily suspended flights to Shenyang after passengers traveling on the route tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Eight passengers flying from Incheon International Airport to Shenyang on December 17th tested positive for the virus upon arrival in China. In accordance with Chinese regulations, the route will be suspended for two weeks.

Korean Air A330
Korean Air’s Seoul-Shenyang route will be suspended for two weeks. Image: Fedor Leukhin via Wikimedia Commons

Eight passengers test positive upon arrival in China

Korean Air flight KE831 from Incheon International Airport (Seoul) to Shenyang on December 17th saw eight passengers test positive for COVID-19. All eight passengers were Chinese nationals and provided positive tests upon arrival in Shenyang.

Chinese authorities have ordered the airline to suspend its Seoul-Shenyang route for two weeks in line with Chinese regulations. Korean Air flies to Shenyang once a week and has canceled its scheduled services on January 7th and January 14th.

Korean Air Suspends Shenyang Route Over Positive COVID Cases
Korean Air Flight KE831 from Seoul to Shenyang on December 17th. Flight data: RadarBox.com

China imposes route bans on airlines that carry passengers who later test positive for COVID-19. A one-week ban applies for less than five infections, while a two-week ban is imposed for flights with five to nine positive cases. For flights with ten or more positive cases, a four-week ban is handed out.

Korean Air also suspends its ‘incentive route’

Korean Air’s Seoul-Shenyang route is not the only casualty to come from the positive cases. The airline has also been ordered to suspend its Incheon-Tianjin route, which was granted as a reward for its hitherto virus-free track record.

Korean Air A330
Eight Chinese nationals on flight KE831 returned positive COVID tests upon arrival in Shenyang. Photo: Korean Air

China grants ‘incentive routes’ to airlines with a good track record of virus-free flights into the country. The airline’s service to Tianjin will not be available from next Tuesday. It is unclear how long this suspension will last.

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Hong Kong flight suspension

Korean Air’s Shenyang flight ban adds to the woes of Korea’s flag carrier, which was handed a two-week suspension from Hong Kong after more positive cases. Five Hong Kong karate athletes flying from Kazakhstan via Incheon International Airport to Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Hong Kong last week.

Korean Air Suspends Shenyang Route Over Positive COVID Cases
The airline was also handed a two-week route ban (Seoul-Hong Kong) by Hong Kong authorities this week. Photo: Getty Images

On the same day, Hong Kong authorities also imposed two-week bans on Cathay Pacific and Emirates after passengers flying with both airlines tested positive. Cathay’s Heathrow-Hong Kong and Emirates’ Dubai-Hong Kong services saw seven and two positive tests respectively.

Korean Air stated that all passengers provided a negative test result before departure and that it had followed all the necessary procedures. The airline operates three flights a week from Seoul to Hong Kong. The suspension will last until January 8th.

What are your thoughts on China’s route bans for positive cases? Have your travel plans been affected by these latest updates? Let us know in the comments.