US Suspends Chinese Airline Flights Amid COVID Row

The US government is halting 26 flights by Chinese airlines from the US to China after Beijing suspended flights by US carriers.



August 26, 2022

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DALLAS - In a dispute over COVID-19 restrictions, the US government is halting 26 flights by Chinese airlines from the United States to China after Beijing suspended flights by US carriers.

The Department of Transportation (DoT) filed a complaint against Beijing on Thursday, alleging that it had broken an air transport agreement and treated US airlines unjustly by requiring them to cancel flights if travelers test positive for COVID-19.

The DoT has announced that seven flights by Air China (CA) from New York City and a total of 19 flights by CA, China Eastern Airlines (MU), China Southern Airlines (CZ), and Xiamen Airlines (MF) from Los Angeles (LAX) have been suspended by U.S. regulators.

In a tit for tat, the US flight suspension is equal to the number of flights United Airlines (UA), American Airlines (AA), and Delta Air Lines (DL) were required to cancel under Beijing’s “circuit-breaker” system.

China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

China's Zero COVID Policy

While other nations are adjusting to living with the virus, China's "zero COVID" policy is designed to keep the pathogen out of the country. While reducing the number of cases, the measure has impacted trade, travel, and manufacturing.

Beijing is relaxing travel restrictions, but most foreigners are still not allowed to enter China.

According to the DoT report, a carrier could delay a flight for two weeks or limit the number of passengers it carried to 40% of the maximum until August 7 if up to nine passengers on a fight tested positive. However, since that same date, airlines must cancel a flight if 4% of their passengers test positive for the illness.

The DoT complained that airlines face “undue culpability” for passengers who present negative test results before boarding but test positive after arriving in China.

China’s actions are “premised on circumstances wholly outside of the carriers’ control,” the DoT statement said. “We reserve the right to take additional action” if Beijing imposes “further circuit-breaker measures.”

Featured image: China Southern Airlines B-1297 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.Photo: Max Langley/Airways