The US government has suspended 44 scheduled flights from the US to China by that country’s airlines in response to restrictions imposed on US carriers due to COVID-19 testing protocols.
The US Department of Transportation today imposed restrictions on four Chinese airlines in a dispute that has seeped since the pandemic broke out in 2020. China had suspended flights on Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. citing an attempt to block the transmission of COVID-19, which US authorities say is a violation of a treaty on access to flights.
The US government’s move is the latest sign of tensions between the two nations over matters ranging from trade policy to alleged espionage. The DOT said its aim was to ease tensions over travel regulations but was forced to take action in response to recent moves by China.
The Civil Aviation Authority of China’s actions against the three airlines “are contrary to the public interest and warrant commensurate corrective action by the department,” the US agency said in the order.
The order restricts flights operated by Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp., China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. and Xiamen Airlines Co. Ltd. The four Chinese airlines did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside normal business hours. country.
Under China’s strict rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus, airlines will be sanctioned with flight suspensions if passengers arriving from other countries test positive for COVID-19. The DOT documented 44 flights operated by US airlines that were suspended by China after passengers tested positive since Dec. 19.
The Chinese government authorizes any passenger to travel to that country, and the US carriers have met all requirements, the DOT said. US airlines should not be penalized if travelers test positive after arriving in China, the DOT said.
China’s demands on how planes are cleaned and quarantine requirements for foreign airline crews have also created tensions.
The two governments’ recent actions are a setback in getting US-China flights – which tend to be more lucrative and a growing market – back to normal in the wake of the pandemic. Flights between the two countries were completely halted in early 2020.
“We support the actions of the Department of Transportation to ensure fair treatment of US airlines in the Chinese market,” said Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines.