Kenya Airways has suspended all its flights to Guangzhou, China after coronavirus killed 170 people.

The national carrier in a statement on Friday said the move follows the outbreak of coronavirus that has left thousands infected.

“Further to our prior communication regarding the current coronavirus outbreak, we have temporarily suspended all flights starting January 31, 2020, until further notice,” KQ said.

“We, however, clarify that our service between Nairobi and Bangkok remains operational.”

The airline said it in consultation with the Health Ministry and Foreign Affairs and will provide updates as the situation develops.

“We apologise to all our customers for the inconvenience and reaffirm that the safety of our customers and staff remains our highest priority,” KQ said.

The national carrier had come under pressure to suspend its flights to China in the wake of continued widespread of the coronavirus.

But KQ said it was observing the situation and would determine if needed, the “need to cancel the flights to China”.

KQ, as it is known by its international code flies thrice a week between Nairobi (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) and Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport with a stopover in Bangkok(Thailand), a trip that takes approximately 13 hours 36 minutes.

The Nairobi- Guangzhou route is one of KQ’s most lucrative, fetching about Sh14.9 million on a round trip, an indicator why management was reluctant to suspend flights.

A return economy ticket on the route would cost an average Sh63,845(as of yesterday’s online booking).

It flies a Boeing 787-8 thrice a week on the route, with a capacity to carry 234 passengers maximum.

On Thursday, Unionised staff at the airline reported concerns over risks of flying to China and handling the aircraft plying that route, which was confirmed by the Kenya Aviation Workers Union.

Some had taken to social media to express their frustrations.

“We are all scared and angry. Everyone who was handling KQ887 is now in a state of shock. We cleaned the aircraft with basic safety gear,” a post read in part, “how greedy can an organisation be to the point of putting the lives of all Kenyans at risk.”

The mentioned aircraft made a trip to Guangzhou and is currently returning to Nairobi, FlightTracker shows. It left Guangzhou at 4.50 pm on Wednesday with an estimated arrival time for JKIA set at 7.25 pm(tonight).

KAWU yesterday demanded that KQ suspends its flights to China “until the scourge of coronavirus is brought under control.”

Kenya’s high risk of being affected is based on the volume of air traffic between Kenya and China, which has reported more than 100 deaths and 2,700 cases of the deadly virus.