US suspends 44 US flights by Chinese carriers after China action

A passenger wearing a mask, amid the health threat of the novel coronavirus, arrives on a direct flight from China at Chicago O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Friday it would suspend 44 flights to China from the United States by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government’s decision to suspend some U.S. carrier flights in due to COVID-19 concerns.

The suspensions will begin Jan. 30 with Xiamen Airlines’ scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Xiamen and continue until March 29, the transportation department said.

The decision will remove some flights from Xiamen, Air China (601111.SS), China Southern Airlines (600029.SS) and China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS).

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Since December 31, Chinese authorities have suspended 20 United Airlines, 10 American Airlines (AAL.O) and 14 Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) flights, after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. As recently as Tuesday, the Department of Transportation said the Chinese government had announced further cancellations of US flights.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said on Friday that the policy on international passenger flights entering China had “been applied equally to Chinese and foreign airlines in a fair, open and transparent”.

He called the US decision “highly unreasonable” and added “We urge the US side to stop disrupting and restricting normal passenger flights” by Chinese airlines.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing the three U.S. carriers affected by China’s decision along with others, said it supports Washington’s action “to ensure fair treatment of U.S. airlines in the Chinese market.” .

The Transport Ministry said France and Germany have taken similar action against China’s actions against COVID-19. He said China’s suspension of the 44 flights “is contrary to the public interest and warrants proportionate corrective action”. He added that “China’s unilateral actions against the named US carriers are inconsistent” with a bilateral agreement.

China has also suspended many US flights operated by Chinese carriers after passengers later tested positive.

The department said it was prepared to review its action if China revised its “policies to bring about the necessary improvement in the situation for American carriers”. He warned that if China cancels more flights, “we reserve the right to take further action.”

China has virtually closed its borders to travelers, reducing the total number of international flights to just 200 per week, or 2% of pre-pandemic levels, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in September.

The number of canceled US flights has increased since December as infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus hit record highs in the United States.

Beijing and Washington have been fighting over air services since the start of the pandemic. In August, the US Department of Transportation limited four Chinese carrier flights to 40% passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed identical limits on four United Airlines flights.

Prior to the recent cancellations, three US airlines and four Chinese carriers operated about 20 flights per week between countries, well below the figure of more than 100 per week before the pandemic.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by Jonathan Oatis, Mark Porter and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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