United Airlines on Saturday temporarily suspended its Delhi-bound flights from Newark, USA, citing "poor air quality" - the first cancellation of an worldwide flight after pollution levels rose in the national capital with air quality index reaching the "severe" category."United temporarily suspended Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi", a spokesperson of the US-based airline said.
The US carrier said its Newark-New Delhi route was suspended because of "poor air quality concerns" and that customers with tickets can re-book on alternate flights.
"We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies".
The airline said it was temporarily suspending all flights to Delhi as the region is under a health emergency.
Passengers will be given vouchers to switch flights, or given assistance in flying with a different airline.
A flight advisory has been posted on United's website, allowing passengers to waive the "change fee and any difference in fare" for United flights departing "on or before November 18, 2017, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed".
It is feared that the smog in Delhi would hit tourism; industry chamber Assocham on Friday said foreign tourists might skip Delhi in favour of other cleaner destinations. Adding to the situation, Delhi, known for its minimal public transportation infrastructure, is faced with worsening pollution from vehicular traffic as well as smoke and exhaust from numerous construction sites throughout the area.
Karan Anand, head (relationships), Cox & Kings, said: "We are not seeing any cancellations from tourists at this point".
The tour operators, however, have not seen any cancellations yet. "Even domestic tourists are avoiding Delhi".
The "foreign travel advice" section of the United Kingdom government's website, gov.uk, says, "Severe air pollution is a major hazard to public health in Delhi, and a serious concern in many Indian cities". Delhi schools were shut for the week.
However, on Saturday, the smog levels decreased but pollutants in the air remained in the "severe" category.