Continental Airlines Inc., United Airlines Inc. and US Airways Inc. on Friday became the first U.S. carriers to announce significant reductions in flights to and from Mexico as a result of the swine flu outbreak.
No other U.S. airline has followed suit yet, although three Canadian carriers previously suspended some or all of their Mexico flights.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines Inc. said it was standing pat on its schedule, for the moment.
"As of this time, we have not made any schedule changes in Mexico," American spokesman Tim Smith said. "We continue to monitor and evaluate the demand situation closely."
Continental said it would eliminate about half its capacity, measured in available seat-miles flown, and about 40 percent of its flights for May, effective today.
Continental, which usually operates about 450 flights a week to 29 Mexican cities, said it will continue serving all those destinations.
"Given the swift changes we are seeing in the marketplace, we need to react prudently but quickly to bring our capacity more into line with demand," Continental chairman and chief executive Larry Kellner said.
United said that effective Tuesday, it would reduce its May schedule to Mexico by 61 percent, from 61 flights a week to 24, and its June schedule by 40 percent, from 90 weekly flights to 52.
Friday evening, US Airways said it would eliminate about 38 percent of its flights to 12 Mexican cities between May 10 and July 1 by operating fewer flights and putting smaller jets on the routes.
Two Canadian carriers, WestJet Inc. and Transat A.T., have announced they were suspending their Mexico flights as of Monday. WestJet will return to three of the four cities June 20, while Transit A.T. intends to resume flights June 1.
Air Canada has said it will suspend service Monday to its Mexico destinations other than Mexico City until June 1.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that "U.S. travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico."
American's Smith said that traffic northbound from Mexico is "generally higher" than for trips into Mexico, "though it varies from flight to flight."
As to reports that flight attendants are calling in sick because they don't want to work the Mexico flights, Smith said some have, but not a lot.
"Such incidents have been extremely rare, and all our flights have been fully staffed without problems," he said.
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