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After US Threat to Ban Chinese Carriers, China Eases Flight Restrictions

Department of Transportation set to ban Chinese airlines starting June 16 as China delays US carriers applications to resume services

June 3, 2020

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has reportedly eased restrictions on foreign airlines operating flights into the country, just hours after the US Department of Transportation issued an order banning Chinese carriers from operating flights to and from the United States, according to reports in the New York Times. 

The DOT order is set to start June 16, and comes in response to “the failure of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to permit US carriers to exercise their bilateral rights to conduct passenger air service to China.”

In an attempt to halt the import of new coronavirus cases into China, beginning in March the government restricted foreign airlines to only one weekly passenger flight on one route to the country.

The restrictions also limit foreign carriers to service that was being offered as of March 12. According to the US, that “effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to and from China,” since US flights had already suspended all China service by that date.

However, according to the New York Times report, China’s civil aviation regulator has now updated these restrictions, allowing foreign carriers “to choose one Chinese city from an approved list to operate one flight each week, beginning June 8.”

The announcement of the CAAC’s policy change does not specifically reference the US decision on Chinese carriers, although the Associated Press reports the Chinese foreign ministry is planning to lodge a complaint over the US ban.

The US has not yet responded to the shift in China’s stand. The DOT website still posts the June 3 order which references two US carriers, Delta and United, that have applied to resume passenger service early in June, but the requests have not yet been approved. “The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement,” according to the DOT statement.

“The Department will continue to engage our Chinese counterparts so both US and Chinese carriers can fully exercise their bilateral rights. In the meantime, we will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours.”

The order would require final approval from President Trump, and “may go into effect before June 16, if the President so orders.”

If the ban were to go into effect, four Chinese carriers currently operating reduced flights to the United States – Air China, China Eastern Airlines,China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines – would be subject to the order. Two other carriers that currently do not operate into the US, Sichuan and Xiamen Airlines, would also be affected.