Trump administration moves to block Chinese airlines from US

Clay Curtis
June 3, 2020

Why it matters: Heated tensions between Washington and Beijing are now beginning to impact the airline industry, as the DOT has accused the Chinese government of preventing us airlines from resuming flights to China after suspending them earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Transportation Department said that China was violating an agreement between the two countries covering flights by each other's airlines.

"We will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours", the department said in a separate statement.

"In the meantime, we will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours", it further said.

The order, published by the Department of Transportation Wednesday, will go into effect June 16, pending a nod from President Donald Trump.

The Department of Transportation order applies to four airlines - Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

By that time, United, Delta, and American airlines had all stopped services to China - meaning that they were all allowed zero flights.

The US Transportation Department said it would suspend passenger flights of four Chinese airlines to and from the United States starting June 16. American's schedule shows flights resuming in October; it has not announced any plans to restart service sooner. "The Chinese government's failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement".

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On Jan. 31, the Trump administration barred most non-US citizens who had been in China within the previous 14 days due to the coronavirus crisis but did not impose any restrictions on Chinese flights.

But because USA passenger airlines had stopped all flights by March 12, China "effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to China", the Transportation Department said. China has denied the accusations and has pointed to various violations of worldwide law on the part of the United States.

Read the DOT's order.

China was the first country to face the global pandemic.

The Trump administration is also cracking down on Chinese passenger airline charter flights and will warn carriers not to expect approvals.

American's last China flights departed on January 31.

Flights to and from China have been cut severely since Beijing banned foreigners from entering the country back in March while Chinese aviation regulators limited foreign airlines to just one flight per week to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections from hitting the Middle Kingdom. That slightly increased in mid-March to 34 weekly flights, all operated by Chinese carriers.

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