American Airlines pilots union sues to stop flights to China amid coronavirus outbreak

American Airlines pilots union sues to stop flights to China amid coronavirus outbreak
© Greg Nash

The pilots union at American Airlines filed a lawsuit to immediately stop all flights to and from China amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 200 people in China.

The Allied Pilots Association filed the suit in Dallas County, Texas, requesting the halt of all flights to China due to the “serious, and in many ways still unknown, health threats posed by the coronavirus.”

“Due to the risks associated with potential exposure to the coronavirus for people travelling to and from China, Plaintiff, on behalf of its respective members, brings the instant action for negligent exposure to a communicable disease,” the lawsuit says. 

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The union, which represents 15,000 pilots, accuses the airline of “negligently and intentionally exposing its members to the coronavirus, a potentially fatal, communicable disease, through its continued operation of flights to and from China.”

The lawsuit estimates that 56 flights travel between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport travel and Chinese airports every month. It also notes that pilots are required to spend 32 hours on the ground between flights to China because of federal rest regulations.

The union cites warnings issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stop “nonessential travel.”

APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson called the risk “unacceptable” in a statement released by the union.

“Due to the known and unknown risks associated with traveling to China right now, concurrent with the filing of our lawsuit, we are directing all American Airlines pilots assigned to flights between the United States and China, other than those on return trips to the United States, to decline the assignment,” Ferguson said.

American Airlines did announce a suspension of flights between Los Angeles International Airport and China from Feb. 9 through March 27.

American Airlines said in a statement to The Hill that it is aware of the lawsuit and will continue to make updates as needed as the situation evolves.

“We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and global public health officials to make sure we are taking all necessary precautions for our customers and team members,” the statement said.