The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has suspended 44 flights to be operated to the United States by Chinese airlines from January 30 and extends until the end of March, in a direct response to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which forces the temporary suspension of a number of routes to China operated by US airlines.
The 44 flight cancellations imposed by DOT match 44 US airlines — operated by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — which CAAC has canceled.
The DOT’s forced suspension of flights to the United States by Chinese airlines includes Air China’s Shenzhen (SZX) -Los Angeles (LOOSE) and Tianjin (TSN) -LAX routes; China Eastern Airlines’ Shanghai (PVG) -New York Kennedy (JFK) route; China Southern Airlines’ Guangzhou (ABLE TO) -LAX route; and Xiamen Airlines’ Xiamen (XMN) -LAX route.
The source of the dispute between the US and Chinese governments is CAAC’s rule, which requires suspension of a flight route for two weeks if 5-9 arriving passengers test positive for COVID-19 “after arrival”, or for four weeks if more than 10 passengers tests positive.
From the end of December, CAAC informed American, Delta and United that the rule had been triggered by positive tests among passengers flying to China. The DOT said the route suspension was in violation of the US-China bilateral air service agreement and gives US airlines “unnecessary blame” because there is no way to know when the passengers were infected with COVID-19.
Passengers traveling to China must show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their aircraft. Given that the negative testing of the arriving passengers took place, in some cases several days after arrival in China, it is possible that some passengers became infected after arriving in China.
CAAC said it applies the rule in an equal way, noting that under the same rule, it has also put 42 international flights into the operation of Chinese airlines.
In its order imposing on Chinese airlines the 44 flight cancellations, the DOT said: “The Chinese government individually exempts each potential traveler from traveling to China before their departure from the United States, after verifying pre-departure test results and other required documentation. comply with all relevant Chinese regulations regarding pre-departure and in-flight protocols, should not be penalized if post-arrival passengers later test positive for COVID-19. “
The DOT said it had “repeatedly raised its objections to the Chinese government” over the COVID-19 rule.
The DOT added that it reserves the “right to take such future actions as we deem appropriate,” indicating that it may be willing to impose further flight cancellations. The department made it clear that its action against Chinese airlines was a direct response to CAAC’s action against US airlines.
“We find that CAAC’s recent actions that undermine Delta, Americans and United’s operations … are unfavorable to the public interest and warrant a proportionate remedial action by the department,” the DOT said. “CAAC’s unilateral actions against the named US airlines do not comply with the provisions of [US-China air services] agreement and is based on matters which are completely beyond the control of the airlines. “
The DOT said it would like to find a solution, saying: “Our overall goal is not to maintain this situation, but rather an improved environment where carriers of both parties will be able to fully exercise their bilateral rights.”