American, Delta plan additional flight cuts for May amid coronavirus pandemic

U.S. air carriers continue to trim flights as worries about the coronavirus pandemic prompt business and leisure travelers to stay at home.

File photo of a Delta Air Lines jet landing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nev. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The latest cuts, announced Friday, were made by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. They follow similar moves by competitors such as Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

American announced on its website that May capacity will drop between 70-80%. (The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline’s April capacity was down between 60-70%.) 

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American’s international capacity for both months will be down between 80-90% year over year.

To put those numbers in perspective, American normally operates 6,800 flights daily.

“These changes are due to significantly decreased customer demand and government travel restrictions related to coronavirus,” American said in its online announcement.

American’s website will reflect the latest April cuts by Sunday; May reductions will be uploaded by April 5.

American has also suspended service to three airports in Hawaii, where a new 14-day quarantine is in effect for travelers. Those airports are Kona, Lihue and Maui. There will be just one flight per day from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

American said it will waive change fees for tickets purchased before April 15.

On Thursday, American confirmed that flight attendant Paul Frishkorn had died Monday from COVID-19.  

Speaking by phone to USA TODAY, Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 27,000 American Airlines cabin crew employees, told USA TODAY that Frishkorn’s death has increased the already deep concern for flight attendants working amid the highly contagious virus.

 “When this hits one of your own, it sheds a whole new light on the coronavirus. This does spread more fear among our ranks,” she said. “This is a killer virus, unlike any we have experienced.”

Delta cuts additional international flights

Delta announced on its website that it would slash additional international flights to Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. However, it did not give a specific number or percentage for the number of cut flights.

It is making the following reductions in service:


  • Atlanta to Amsterdam (once daily)
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow (once daily)
  • Detroit to Amsterdam (once daily)


  • Atlanta to Tokyo-Haneda (up to five times per week)
  • Detroit to Tokyo-Haneda (up to six times per week)
  • Detroit to Seoul-Incheon (up to five times per week)
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda (reduced service)
  • Honolulu to Nagoya (reduced service)
  • Honolulu to Osaka (reduced service)
  • Seattle to Tokyo-Haneda (up to seven times per week)
  • Seattle to Seoul-Incheon (up to five times per week)

Central and South America

  • Atlanta to São Paulo (once daily)


  • Atlanta to San Juan (daily)
  • Atlanta to St. Thomas (effective April 24)
  • New York-JFK to San Juan (daily)
  • New York-JFK to Santiago (daily)
  • New York-JFK to Santo Domingo (daily)


  • Atlanta to Cancun (daily)
  • Atlanta to Mexico City (daily)
  • Los Angeles to Los Cabos (less than daily)
  • Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta (less than daily)
  • Salt Lake City to Cancun (daily)
  • Salt Lake City to Mexico City (less than daily)


  • Atlanta to Toronto (once daily)
  • Detroit to Montreal (twice daily)
  • Detroit to Ottawa (once daily)
  • Detroit to Toronto (twice daily)
  • Minneapolis to Calgary (once daily)
  • Minneapolis to Edmonton (once daily)
  • Minneapolis to Saskatoon (once daily)
  • Minneapolis to Winnipeg (once daily)
  • New York-JFK to Montreal (once daily)
  • New York-JFK to Toronto (once daily)
  • Seattle to Vancouver (twice daily)

Delta has waived change fees for all flights departing in March, April and May. For tickets purchased between March 1 and April 15, change fees will be waived for up to a year from the date of purchase.

Delta typically has in excess of 5,000 daily departures.

Delta also announced Friday that it would be offering free flights to medical volunteers looking to fly to the “front lines” to help fight COVID-19 in “significantly impacted” areas of the country. The flights will begin departing in April and are available for booking up to three days before takeoff.

“Eligible medical volunteers will be able to book round-trip Delta flights free of charge to Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan, where they will work in coordination with the state and local government offices,” Delta said in the announcement.

Georgia, which is home to Delta’s Atlanta headquarters and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had more than 2,400 positive cases of coronavirus and 79 people in the state had died as of Saturday evening.

Louisiana, where New Orleans has been hard hit by the virus, had more than 3,300 cases and 137 deaths. Michigan had more than 3,600 cases and 92 people had died.

Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY

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