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SAS cancels flights to China as coronavirus spreads

Scandinavian airline SAS is cancelling flights to and from mainland China over fears of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

SAS cancels flights to China as coronavirus spreads
SAS said it had decided to ground all flights to and from mainland China. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Editor's note: The situation around the novel coronavirus is changing rapidly, and this article is no longer being updated. Please click HERE for the latest updates and HERE for all our coronavirus coverage.

“The safety of our passengers and employees is our highest priority. After evaluating the situation in China regarding the coronavirus, SAS has decided to suspend all flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing,” said the airline in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

The cancellations affect flights from Copenhagen – the main international airport used by people based in Denmark and southern Sweden – between January 31st and February 9th.

SAS said it was also closing sales for flights to Shanghai and Beijing until February 29th.

Flights to and from Hong Kong are not affected by the cancellations.

Passengers who were due to travel to, from or via Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong would be allowed to change their reservation and rebook their flight to another travel date, or receive a refund, said SAS.

Here's a link to more information about changing your flight or requesting a refund.

READ ALSO: Norwegian hospital debunks 'fake news' coronavirus rumour

Meanwhile in Europe, a cruise ship carrying 6,000 passengers was placed on lockdown off the coast of Italy as a Chinese couple were being tested for the coronavirus.

The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – at a fish market in late December and since then 170 people have died, with about 7,700 confirmed cases.

Outside China, Macau and Hong Kong there have been at least 80 infections reported, including one person in Finland, but none in the rest of the Nordic region.

The large extent of international travel means that individual cases of people contracting the virus cannot be ruled out, but health authorities believe the risk of catching the virus in Scandinavia is very low.

What you need to know about the coronavirus in Sweden, Denmark and Norway

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden’s airport chaos?

Stockholm Arlanda Airport is once again suffering hour-long queues for security due to a surge in travel and personnel shortages. What can you do if you miss your flight?

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden's airport chaos?

What’s the situation at Arlanda over the Ascension Day weekend? 

According to the airport operator Svedavia, the worst peak for the long weekend is probably over. “Today looks good with no long waiting time at Arlanda,” Ellen Laurin, the company’s press officer, told The Local on Friday. “Yesterday morning [Thusday], we had a morning peak before nine in the morning, and the rest of the day was OK.” 

According to Swedavia’s website, waiting times at security were less than five minutes on Friday morning.  

However, she warned that there could once again be big queues on Sunday when those who have travelled to Sweden over the long weekend make their way home. 

“Sunday is a big travel day when people will fly home again. There could be queues at peak times,” she said. “We recommend that passengers have a close contact with their airline for information about their flight. It is important to have extra time at the airport and to be prepared.  

READ ALSO: What’s behind the queues at Arlanda Airport? 

Which airports in other countries have problems? 

Arlanda is not the only airport facing problems due to delays staffing up again after the pandemic. On Friday morning, Twitter users were complaining of two-hour queues at the border control at Heathrow Airport in the UK, while at the UK’s Manchester Airport, passengers were reporting queues for security of up to two hours on Thursday. 

Dublin Airport is also facing regular two-hour queues at security. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport had a 1km security queue on Thursday, pushing the Dutch airline KLM to cancel flights. 

Can I get compensation or insurance payments if I missed my flight due to the queues? 

The SAS airline has already underlined that it is their customers’ responsibility to make sure that they arrive at the airport in sufficiently good time to make their flight. 

“To be certain you can come with us, you should be in good time, and if you are in good time, you will manage to get your flight,” she told state broadcaster SR. “It is always the customer’s responsibility to be on your way as early as is necessary.”

People who miss flights are also likely to struggle to get payouts from travel insurance, warned Gabriella Hallberg, an expert on travel insurance at the Swedish Consumers’ Insurance Bureau. 

“If you’re at the airport and are hit by security controls that take a very long time, they consider that it is the consumer themselves who have not planned their journey,” she told SR

She said that it might be possible to find an insurance company that is willing to insure against flights missed due to security queues. 

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