By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – United Airlines <UAL.O> said late Saturday it will drastically reduce flights to two New York City airports amid the coronavirus outbreak.
United said starting Sunday it will go from 157 daily flights total at Newark and New York LaGuardia to just 17.
Newark, the airline’s hub in the New York area, will drop from 139 daily flights to 62 destinations to 15 flights a day to nine destinations, while LaGuardia will go from 18 to 2 flights a day.
“We are mindful that United Airlines continues to provide an essential service during these challenging times. The airspace at Newark and LaGuardia is among the busiest in the world and we have an ongoing responsibility to get people and goods where they need to be,” United chief operations officer Greg Hart said in a note to employees.
United said regardless of whether employees are on duty, the airline will maintain pay and benefits of local employees in those locations. The reductions will be in effect for at least three weeks.
New York has been the hardest-hit U.S. state by the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus has now killed 3,565 people in the state, or more than 40% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths.
Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson on Saturday praised United’s decision to shrink “to essential service only out of Newark and LaGuardia. This is what we’ve been calling for, and what should be happening across the system.”
On Monday, low-cost U.S. carrier Spirit Airlines Inc <SAVE.N> said it was canceling all flights to and from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey after U.S. officials warned against travel to the area because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spirit said it was responding to last weekend’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory warning against all non-essential travel to and from the area.
Spirit suspended service to airports it serves in the region – New York LaGuardia, Newark, Hartford, Niagara Falls and Plattsburgh – through at least May 4.
For the 12 months ending in January, Spirit was the fifth largest carrier at LaGuardia, carrying 1.36 million passengers. It was also the fifth largest carrier at Newark, carrying 1.4 million passengers in the same period.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)