US to bar Chinese carriers amid spat over resumption of flights by Delta and United

Jun 3, 2020

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U.S. authorities will bar Chinese airlines from serving the United States amid a growing spat over plans by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to resume flights to China.

In an order issued Wednesday morning, the Department of Transportation said Chinese passenger carriers will be barred from serving the U.S. after 16 June. Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines are currently operating limited flights, while Sichuan Airlines plans to resume service on 12 June and Hainan Airlines on 1 July.

The move is in response to the failure of the Chinese government to grant Delta and United approval to resume passenger flights in June. However, it also comes amid a rise in tensions between U.S. president Trump and China over the handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as a recent security law governing Hong Kong.

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Delta hoped to resume service to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) on 3 June. It planned two daily flights, one from Detroit (DTW) and one from Seattle (SEA), both stopping at Seoul Incheon (ICN) enroute to Shanghai.

United hoped to resume flights to both Beijing Capital (PVG) and Shanghai on 15 June. It planned to connect both cities with its San Francisco (SFO) hub, as well as Shanghai with its Newark (EWR) hub.

All five planned passenger flights cannot begin until approval is granted by Chinese authorities.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

At the centre of the issue is a 26 March order by China’s aviation authority, the CAAC, allowing foreign airlines to operate one weekly passenger flight to the country in order to minimize spread of COVID-19. That order set the baseline for service resumptions as schedule airlines operated as of March 12.

However, U.S. carriers suspended all passenger flights to China in February.

The DOT said that the 12 March baseline “effectively precludes U.S. carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to and from China”.

The CAAC, in a response to the DOT, said it was enforcing its March order “equally” across all Chinese and foreign carriers in a “fair, equal and transparent” manner.

The spat between China and the U.S. is the first of what may be more to come as airlines seek to resume flights but country’s remain wary of the coronavirus. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that a patchwork of country-by-country restrictions will slow the recovery of international travel.

IATA is calling for the implementation of global health and safety standards to facilitate the resumption of flights — and air travel — between countries.

American Airlines also serves China but does not plan to resume flights until October.

Below is a list of flights operated by Chinese carriers to the U.S. that could be affected by the DOT order:

Air China

  • Beijing-Los Angeles (LAX) on Sundays

China Eastern

  • Shanghai-New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) on Tuesdays (eastbound) and Thursdays (westbound)

China Southern

  • Guangzhou (CAN)-Los Angeles on Saturdays (eastbound) and Sundays (westbound)


  • Xiamen (XMN)-Los Angeles on Sundays (eastbound) and Mondays (westbound)

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Featured image by VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

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