The airline states that the risk of transmission to passengers is low

By Hannah Chubb
March 13, 2020 03:57 PM
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An American Airlines pilot based out of Texas has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The airline confirmed the news to PEOPLE on Friday. “American’s Chief Medical Officer and leaders from our pilots’ office have been in touch with our Dallas Fort Worth based pilot who tested positive for COVID-19,” shared Curtis R. Blessing, a spokesperson for the company. “We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials and are coordinating with them on all required health and safety measures.”

The airline additionally noted that the risk of transmission to passengers is low.

A message acquired by PEOPLE which was sent to all American Airlines team members on Thursday night reveals that the airline will be taking several new steps in response to the spread of the deadly virus — for both customers and employees.

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The company will be suspending hiring in response to the drop in travel demand in order to maintain profits. They will also be deferring classes for pilots, flight attendants and other workers starting the week of March 23.

They will also be offering a two-week paid sick policy for all employees with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and those who are quarantined.

The amount of flights to and from Europe and South America will also be changing to accommodate a drop in demand.

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Speaking to the changes they’re making for customers in light of the outbreak, the airline announced they are offering customers who booked tickets prior to March 1 and are traveling through April 30 the flexibility to rebook without typical change fees. “Customers who book March 1 through March 31 for travel through Jan. 30, 2021, can change their reservation at a later date without change fees, too,” the statement reads, “And for all customers scheduled to travel to Europe, including the United Kingdom, we have additional flexibility through the end of May.”

Additionally, customers who are no longer permitted to travel to the United States (including those who have visited the Schengen Area, Iran or mainland China) will be able to cancel their reservations and receive a full refund.

As of Friday morning, there were more than 1,660 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 41 deaths, most of them in Washington state. Worldwide cases now top 140,000, and more than 5,300 people have died.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.