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BREAKING: British Airways suspends all flights to China

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British Airways has cancelled all flights to Beijing and Shanghai due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

There will be no services until at least Friday, and no tickets are being sold for flights until 1st March.  This implies that a further mass cancellation is to be expected.  It follows Foreign Office guidance to avoid all travel to Mainland China until further notice.

Hong Kong services are still operating as normal.  Iberia flights to China are also still operating.

It isn’t clear if the flights will operate, but empty.  The Foreign Office has still to decide whether to fund an evacuation of British citizens from Wuhan and possibly other areas, and of course there are people due to fly back.

The Government has now confirmed that anyone returning from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days on a military base, with the aircraft potentially landing there directly.  It is worth noting that the Australian Government is forcing its 600 returning citizens to spend two weeks on Christmas Island, which is 1,200 miles from the mainland.


The special advisories page of is here and has the latest information.

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Comments (99)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Jake Mc says:

    All. In need of advice

    Just phoned BA and they said they are not offering a re-routing. I have an avios ticket booked. They said that I can only cancel for a refund or re-book at a later date subject to avios availability.

    Is this legal/ acceptable or do they have to get me to the destination via another reasonable means?

    • Rob says:

      Where are you going?

      • Jake Mc says:

        London to Shanghai on BA and then Shanghai to Tokyo on JAL. All on avios.

        I asked if they could re-route me to Tokyo direct and said no.

        I also asked if they could re-route via another OW partner to get to Shanghai to get my Shanghai to Tokyo leg. Also no.

        They said I have to get a refund or re-book subject to Avios availability

        • BlueHorizonuk says:

          On the trade site, BA are saying that the only rerouting option they are allowing is to change Beijing/Shanghai to Hong Kong. No other cities allowed.

          Travel dates 25 January – 23 February 2020

          • Shoestring says:

            those re-routing options often increase significantly after a couple of days

        • Riccatti says:

          Depending on your transit in Shanghai — if you are not leaving the airport, then the risk is not larger than in HKG. If you are spending time overnight — a different story but at this stage I wouldn’t transit HKG either.

          If you can handle hotel cancellation in Japan, then just take Avios and postpone the trip.

          It is cold time of year in Japan and “usual” flu is just as virulent.

          • Jake Mc says:

            It’s been in the diary over half term for a while with kids.

            Are BA allowed to not offer to re-route me? As of currently travel is only not advised so it seems like BA are choosing, rather than obligated, not to fly.

            Are they allowed to choose to cancel without re-routing?

          • Riccatti says:

            @Jake Mc

            If these are separate PNR tickets LHR – PVG and PVG-TYO, then BA is not responsible for your transportation to Tokyo.

            There is also mistaken interpretation in your “only not advised”.
            FCO advice against all but essential travel = DO NOT TRAVEL. In case of such advice, you are not covered by insurance and all responsibility for you is either on the party that sent you (government, company) or yourself.

            BA is obligated not to fly, and can offer you refund or rebooking to the destination of the ticket — that is Shanghai.

            BA has no control over JAL reward availability. Things are very much complicated by the number of seats your party requires — assuming x4 (2 kids, 2 adults) travelling in Club. Not impossible, but for rev management to release x4 Avios seats in Club on LHR – TYO — would be a serious chunk of goodwill. It’s also likely they don’t have those seats.

        • meta says:

          Insist on rerouting to Tokyo. My friend had a similar situation last year. They had it in reverse. Martinique-Miami on AA then Miami-London with BA on avios (two separate bookings). AA cancelled a flight and stopped all services from Martinique for a while. BA then moved them to a flight from St Lucia. Just insist and be polite and ask for a supervisor. I think it is a question of them going and asking someone who can authorise it as it is outside official policy.

          • Riccatti says:

            OP does not seem to understand (at first) that if his tickets are separate, BA is not responsible to re-route from PVG to TYO. Your friend situation was AA action, and BA stepped in with goodwill to address that but it was likely facilitated by fact that he needed x1 seat. Here the OP likely requesting x4 reward seats in Club to TYO (assuming).

          • meta says:

            @ Ricatti he actually needed 2 seats! But granted, it was a gesture. It is perfectly reasonable to appeal to their goodwill even more so in this case. Also I would also do a bit of research on which routes have 4 reward seats available and then call BA with the acceptable option.

        • Tony says:

          Just get BA re-route you to HK, cancel your PVG-TYO then book a HKG-TYO on CX/JL with avios. All you lose is taxes (claimable from insurance?) and the avios diff between PVG-TYO and HK-TYO

          • Shoestring says:

            but the OP should not lose out financially vis a vis BA, ie they are obliged to re-route at no cost to OP, the JAL bit being the buggeration factor (not a codeshare by any chance?)

          • marcw says:

            @Shoestring, that’s only true if they’ve cancelled their flight. I believe only flights for the next couple of days have been cancelled.

          • Shoestring says:

            correct you always wonder about the facts & if the OP has said it the way you understand it
            [Just phoned BA and they said they are not offering a re-routing. I have an avios ticket booked. They said that I can only cancel for a refund or re-book at a later date subject to avios availability.
            Is this legal/ acceptable or do they have to get me to the destination via another reasonable means?]

            if all this is outside the date parameters, ie the OP’s flights are not yet affected, then of course BA CS will tell the OP he is unable to do anything just yet about rearranging his flights

          • Riccatti says:

            @Shoestring, the OP has two SEPARATE Avios bookings, LHR – PVG on BA and PVG-TYO on JAL.

            Say, if PVG-TYO gets cancelled, it is JAL’s responsibility to re-route, not BA.

            BA is not responsible for OP transportation to Tokyo and he should not expect “no cost” solution from BA to this multi-ticket situation.

            Now, BA can extend goodwill and re-route to TYO instead of PVG but the OP seems to have x4 people in the party (kids plus 2 adults I assume). For rev management to release x4 Avios seats in Club (assuming) — would be a serious chunk of goodwill.

            Also, JAL reward availability is completely out of control for BA.

          • Shoestring says:

            @Riccatti – looks like his flights haven’t actually been cancelled, he’s just anticipating/ planning ahead

    • Charlieface says:

      They do indeed have to get you there. EC261 has no exception for reasonable re-routing, you don’t have to take a refund.

      • marcw says:

        Only if his flight has been cancelled.

      • Riccatti says:

        OP first separate ticket is LHR – PVG and only that is covered under EC 261.

        The separate ticket PVG-TYO is _not_ covered under EC 261.

    • marcw says:

      Have they cancelled your flight? When are you travelling?

      • Jake Mc says:

        So it’s over the dates they have cancelled flights.

        As far as I see it they have chosen to cancel (not obligated) so therefore have a duty to get me to my destination.

        • Jake Mc says:

          And shoe string. Not a code share. Totally separate ticket. But only paid £100 fees and if I cancel I should get avios back

        • marcw says:

          Are you flying before the 1st of February then? If yes, then they must re-route you under EC261. If your flight is after February 1, your flight has not been cancelled. They are just not taking new bookings: in the next couple of days, as Rob highlights above, it’s likely that further flights to China will be cancelled – but you need to wait for that cancellation.

        • Riccatti says:

          No, no. BA obligation is for your transportation to Shanghai only, the rest is goodwill (given you have two separate tickets LHR – PVG and PVG – TYO).

          PVG – TYO obligation is on JAL and BA is your “travel agent” on Avios booking.

          FCO advice against all but essential travel — is ‘obligatory’ for BA and is their legal defence. BA has to cancel flights and if you have to travel during the cancellation and can’t postpone to later date, then it is refund.

          • marcw says:

            BA doesn´t have to cancel flights. Virgin is flying to Shanghai – no scheduled cancellations.

  • david says:

    So say I am in Wuhan and I have the virus i then get a flight from China, then Tokyo, then to BKK, then direct to LHR. How could UK authorities know that I am contagious. Stopping flights just from Wuhan is like using a straw to stop a sinking ship.

    • Rich says:

      Given Wuhan is pretty much closed off you’re going to struggle even leaving the city.

    • Mark says:

      Except that Wuhan is locked down, so other than through the government organised evacuation flights you probably can’t get out anyway.

      If you’re elsewhere in China and have picked up the virus that’s a different matter of course, but clearly there’s a much greater risk you have it if you’re in Wuhan.

      • marcw says:

        Do you know the risk? Hubei province has 60 mill citizens… and there are just 3.600 confirmed cases. Incidence is pretty low, looking at the numbers. Obviously the main interest now is to limit virus geographical expansion.

  • maccymac says:

    There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the coronavirus outbreak.

    It is clearly not normal for governments (authoritarian or otherwise) to build 1000 bed hospitals in days and deploy the military. This in itself is a worrying sign that things may get much worse.

    Pneumonia simply means inflammation of the lung(s). It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungul infections or a host of other things.

    It is reasonable to assume that the figures being released by the Chinese government are underreported. There may be whole host of reasons for this. They may wish to not alarm the population more than necessary as the resultant chaos could hamper efforts to deploy resources to combat the disease. I won’t comment on the ethics or morality of this. They may be finding diagnosis of the disease difficult. This may be if they have to undertake bronchoscopies and PCR sequencing for diagnosis which are both labour and time expensive and require equipment that may not be readily available where and when needed. There may also be a ‘bottleneck’ effect at hospitals which are overrun with patients so the doctors, nurses and laboratory staff do not have the physical space or the time to assess and treat everyone as well as they would like to and have to prioritise the sickest. Alleged videos of hospitals on liveleak are very concerning showing overcrowded hospitals and clinicians at breaking point.

    There has been some scientific data from Wuhan published three days ago on the Lancet looking at the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of 41 patients. Small numbers granted but good insights to be had. The median age of people affected were 49. Mostly men (30/41) and a third had pre-existing medical conditions (13/41). The largest group affected were those aged 25-49 making up almost half of the cases (20/41). This dispels the myth that it is mainly affecting the old or children. It appears to hit young and middle-age adults who are (presumably) relatively healthy. A third, 13 out of the 41, patients ended up in ITU with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and/or some other type of organ failure (acute cardiac injury, acute kidney injury, shock, etc).

    6 out of 41 (15%) died.

    The study also states that the Wuhan Fish Market was open for a whole month after the first coronavirus case

    I have a trip to South Korea planned in March.

    The decision I have to make on whether to go will be based on keeping a close eye on the situation. I will consider thoroughly government guidelines from the UK, China and South Korea and looking at any updates from the WHO. Also will speak to my travel insurance nearer the time.

    Ultimately however, the question I will have to answer is how confident am I that if things were to deteriorate that I can be adequately looked after by the local healthcare infrastructure. I’m 32 and generally speaking I would expect that I have decent physiological reserve. However almost half the patients affected in the pilot study I have just stated were my age and if I, like them, catch the virus and go into single organ failure, multi-organ failure and/or shock for example, I will need prompt and high quality Intensive Care and one has to wonder how readily available and accessible that will be in a chaotic situation where services are overburdened with potentially epidemic levels of patients.

    A link to the study which I would encourage those interested to read:

    • marcw says:

      Thanks for sharing. highly interesting. Promising, not alarming.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Just to add some context Wuhan has a population of over 11m and Hubei of around 60m.

      To be clear I think the Chinese government are doing the right thing trying to contain the virus, weather they are taking the correct approach I’ll let other commentate.

      • maccymac says:

        Yes absolutely thank you for pointing that out. I should have put the context of the large population in my post. I also agree that containment is the right approach but understand that others may have other views on that strategy.

        Note that Australia and the UK are using the same principle for specific repatriated citizens by isolating them for 14 days.

  • Shoestring says:

    Scientists in Hong Kong have developed a vaccine that they think might work against the Chinese coronavirus as the global research community stepped up its efforts to halt the epidemic.

    Although it would still be at least a year before any vaccine candidate could be tested and proven to be safe, the development highlighted the unprecedented speed with which virologists were responding to the outbreak.

    The announcement came as researchers in Australia also revealed that they had successfully synthesised the virus in the laboratory, using a sample from an infected patient. Their success in fabricating the virus is a crucial step in allowing laboratories to create their own treatments and to uncover its secrets.

    • Shoestring says:

      The sequencing and publication by Chinese scientists of the viral genome in only a few days, compared to the five months it took during the 2002 Sars outbreak, is considered to be a game changer. It has allowed research to begin almost immediately, and also revealed that the virus’s similarities to Sars may allow existing research to be repurposed.

    • SimonW says:

      I’ve heard the vaccine is 2 paracetamols and a large whisky (NOT scotch).

      • Shoestring says:

        that’s what most of the people clogging up the wards in China should have got and been sent home, they probably got something worse while they were waiting to be seen

  • Phillip says:

    LH group has also cancelled flights to mainland China!

  • Shoestring says:

    Virus prevention
    Sir – The masks being worn to protect against coronavirus (Letters, January 28) will do little, if anything, to arrest the spread. A virus is roughly 100 times smaller than a bacterium. It is too late.
    D J Thomson
    Sittingbourne, Kent

    • Russ says:

      Thanks Shoe.

      For visual learners this may be easier to assimilate.

      • Shoestring says:

        Once Hubei deaths get up to 300 that big red circle’s going to be same size as Germany.

        They should add the rider: ‘not to scale’ – or all the panickers will start hyperventilating.

        • Russ says:


        • Cat says:

          Definitely not to scale – they seem to be grouping the data and assigning different sized dots to each group, rather than making area proportional to confirmed cases (which is what they should be doing).
          Anhui’s 200 cases are shown by a dot that appears to be exactly the same size as Shanghai’s 101 cases’ dot, yet Hunan’s 277 cases are represented by a significantly larger dot.
          The masks will help with liquid-borne viruses only, and may help you avoid transferring from your fingers to your nose or mouth if you have an itch to scratch in that vicinity, but only if you’re strict with yourself – those masks can actually make you itchy, so if you’re prone to scratching absent-mindedly, they might actually increase the risk. Anything airborne can get through.

    • Delbert says:

      D J Thomson didn’t mention industrial water bottles being ineffective though. Every cloud.

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