The union representing American Airlines pilots is suing the carrier to stop flights to China because of the spreading coronavirus threat.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents nearly 15,000 pilots at the Fort Worth-based airline, filed suit Thursday in Dallas County court asking for a temporary restraining order on flights.
American Airlines on Wednesday said it would suspend flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Beijing and Shanghai from Feb. 9 to March 27, but the carrier still has flights from LAX to Hong Kong. American also flies nonstop to China from DFW International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
“We estimate that as many as 300 passengers and crew travel to DFW alone from Chinese cities on each American Airlines flight,” said a statement from Allied Pilots Association President Eric Ferguson. “To us, that level of risk is unacceptable.
The union is also telling pilots to decline assignments to China.
“The safety and well-being of our crews and passengers must always be our highest priority — first, last, and always,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Numerous other major carriers that serve China, including British Airways, Air Canada, and Lufthansa, have chosen to suspend service to that country out of an abundance of caution. The APA leadership has asked American Airlines management to follow suit.”
United Airlines has also canceled many flights to China.
American flies to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, but it also has partnerships with companies such as Cathay Pacific Airways and China Southern Airlines that fly to smaller Chinese cities.
In a statement, American Airlines said it is aware of the lawsuit.
“We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and global public health officials to make sure we are taking all necessary precautions for our customers and team members,” said the statement from the company. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make any updates as needed.”
On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” CDC said a sixth person in the United States was confirmed to have the virus in the first case of human-to-human transmission in the country.
The World Health Organization said there have been more than 7,800 confirmed cases and 170 deaths. Most of the cases are in China, but patients in 18 countries have been confirmed to have the virus, including the United States and China.
CDC this week added DFW Airport to a list where travelers from China will be screened for illness as they enter the country.
American flight attendants have also expressed concern about the coronavirus and say they are on the front lines if any passengers do have the illness. Lori Bassani, president of the union representing 28,000 flight attendants, said Thursday that the “situation in China should be taken with the utmost seriousness.”
“Until we know more and can be sure that all crew and passengers will be safe from this quickly-spreading illness, we are urgently calling on American Airlines and the federal government to err on the side of caution and halt all flights to and from China,” Bassani said in a statement. “Our safety is not for sale. We stand with our pilots.”
The Allied Pilots Association is bargaining with American Airlines for a new contract and held a rally at DFW Airport on Wednesday.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News