Pilots union sues American for not halting China service

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AA plane Hong Kong
Photo Credit: Sudpoth Sirirattanasakul/Shutterstock

The union representing American Airlines pilots has asked a Texas court to immediately halt the carrier’s flights between the U.S. and China. 

In the meantime, the Allied Pilots Association is directing American pilots to decline assignments for flights to China. 

In the lawsuit filed in the Dallas County Circuit Court Thursday, the APA accused American of “negligently and intentionally exposing” APA members to the coronavirus by continuing to operate China flights. 

American said Wednesday that it would suspend flights between Los Angeles and mainland China effective Feb. 9. But the carrier will continue flying to Beijing and Shanghai from Dallas/Fort Worth and hasn’t suspended any China flights for the next 10 days.

In its lawsuit, the APA said that’s not good enough, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Level 3 warning recommending that individuals avoid all nonessential travel to China. The carrier also cited decisions by Lufthansa Group, Air Canada and British Airways to immediately halt China service. 

In a statement Thursday, American said, “We are aware of the filing. 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. … We will continue to monitor the situation and make any updates as needed.”

The APA says that American operates approximately 56 flights per month between Dallas/Fort Worth and China, and that each of those flights will carry approximately 300 people. The union added that flight crews are required to be on the ground in China for 32 hours to comply with federal rest regulations. 

The APA has asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking American’s China flights as long as the Level 3 CDC warning is in place. 

In a statement, AFA president Eric Ferguson said he has taken independent action in the meantime. 

“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.

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