American Airlines delays HK flights over new COVID-19 testing rules

FILE PHOTO: A member of a ground crew walks past American Airlines planes parked at the gate during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

(Reuters) - American Airlines Group Inc said on Thursday it delayed flights to Hong Kong, a day after the city introduced mandatory virus tests for all arriving crew members.

Airline crew were previously exempted from tests and quarantine obligations in Hong Kong, but a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the city prompted its health chiefs to introduce stricter measures to combat rising concerns of a community outbreak.

“Starting July 8, crew members of aircrafts entering Hong Kong via the Hong Kong International Airport will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 addition to a 14-day medical surveillance,” a spokesman for Hong Kong’s Department of Health said in an email to Reuters.

American was scheduled to resume a Dallas/Fort Worth-Hong Kong passenger flight three times a week, starting July 9, after passenger service to the city was suspended towards the end of January. The airline has now pushed resumption of the service to Aug. 5.

“We’ve been making regular adjustments to our schedule to match demand, and we consider a range of factors including travel restrictions or entry requirements in making network decisions,” American Airlines said.

Several media reports also said United Airlines Holdings Inc was another U.S. airline to cancel flight to and from Hong Kong. United did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli