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Chinese Airlines Told to Provide Free Cancellations on Domestic Flights

By Jia Tianqiong, Bao Zhiming, Bai Yujie and Denise Jia / Jan 24, 2020 06:01 AM / Society & Culture

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China’s airline regulator expanded its free cancellation policy to include all domestic flights, not limited to those into and out of Wuhan, where a quickly spreading pneumonia-causing virus has killed 17 and led to quarantine of the city.

At 9:30 p.m. Thursday local time, the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a notice instructing airlines and ticket agents to offer passengers who have booked any domestic flights free cancellations if requested. Previously the free cancellation policy applied only to flights departing, arriving and transferring at Wuhan.

The Wuhan airport shut down all departing runways as of 10 a.m. Thursday as part of the quarantine that has closed the city’s train stations and public transportation. Multiple airlines have canceled flights into and out of Wuhan as far out as Feb. 29.

The airport closure, announced at 2 a.m. Thursday, has caused challenges to carriers that operate flights transferring at Wuhan, leaving them a very short time to adjust schedules. Some airlines changed transferring flights to direct flights to final destinations.

China Eastern Airlines canceled the second part of a Thursday flight from Huai’an in Jiangsu province transferring at Wuhan to Chengdu in Sichuan after the airplane landed in Wuhan, leaving 23 passengers stranded. The airline eventually put the passengers on another flight to Chongqing, a city about 200 miles from Chengdu.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, Air China canceled 28 Wuhan-related flights, China Eastern Airlines 78 and China Southern Airlines 108. Spring Airlines canceled all flights between Wuhan and Osaka till Jan. 28; Shenzhen Airlines, all Wuhan-related flights until Feb. 10; and Cathay Dragon airline, all Wuhan-related flights till Feb. 29.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

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