US suspends 26 Chinese flights in response to China flight cancellations

WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Thursday it will suspend 26 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 reason for COVID-19 cases.

The decision will affect flights of Xiamen, Air China (601111.SS), China Southern Airlines (600029.SS) and China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) from September 5 to September 28. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) cited the recent cancellation of 26 American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), and United Airlines (UAL.O) flights for cases of COVID-19.

The suspensions include 19 flights to China from Los Angeles and 7 China Eastern flights from New York.

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Chinese Embassy in Washington spokesman Liu Pengyu said USDOT’s action was “extremely irresponsible” and “groundlessly suspended flights by Chinese airlines.”

The embassy said China’s “circuit breaker” measures against COVID-19 were fair and transparent, applied to both Chinese and foreign airlines, and complied with bilateral air transport agreements.

The USDOT said that as of August 7, Chinese authorities have revised their policies. So, if the number of passengers on a flight to China testing positive for COVID-19 reached 4% of the total, a flight would be suspended. If it reached 8%, two flights would be suspended.

The USDOT said the United States has repeatedly raised objections with China, saying the rules impose “undue culpability on carriers” when travelers test negative before boarding their flight from the United States. US only to “test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in China”.

Beijing and Washington have been fighting over air services since the start of the pandemic. In January, the Department of Transportation suspended 44 flights to China from the United States by the four Chinese carriers in response to China’s decision to suspend 44 flights by American carriers.

In August 2021, the USDOT limited four Chinese carrier flights to 40% passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed identical limits on four United Airlines flights.

Three U.S. airlines and four Chinese carriers typically operate 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; Editing by David Gregorio and Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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