U.S. suspends 44 U.S flights by Chinese language carriers after China motion By Reuters

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©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing a mask arrives on a direct flight from China at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, United States, amid the health threat posed by the novel coronavirus, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Friday it would suspend 44 flights by four Chinese airlines from the United States to China in response to the Chinese government’s decision to ground some U.S. airline flights over COVID-19 concerns to suspend.

The suspensions begin on Jan. 30 with Xiamen Airlines’ scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Xiamen and will run until March 29, the transportation department said.

The decision will cancel some flights from Xiamen, Air China (OTC:), China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:).

Since December 31, Chinese authorities have suspended 20 United Airlines, 10 American Airlines (NASDAQ:) and 14 Delta Air Lines (NYSE:) flights after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The Ministry of Transport announced on Tuesday that the Chinese government had announced new US flight cancellations.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Friday the policy on international passenger flights to China has been “applied to Chinese and foreign airlines alike in a fair, open and transparent manner.”

Calling the US move “very unreasonable,” he added, “We urge the US side to stop disrupting and restricting normal passenger flights” by Chinese airlines.”

Airlines for America, a trade group that together represents the three US airlines affected by China’s move, said it supports Washington’s move “to ensure fair treatment of US airlines in the Chinese market.”

The transport ministry said France and Germany have taken similar measures against China’s COVID-19 actions. China’s suspension of the 44 flights is “contrary to the public interest and warrants appropriate remedial action.” It added that China’s “unilateral measures against said US airlines are inconsistent with a bilateral deal.”

China has also suspended numerous US flights operated by Chinese airlines after passengers later tested positive.

The ministry said it was ready to reconsider its actions if China revised its “policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for US airlines.” It warned that if China cancels more flights, “we reserve the right to take additional measures.”

China has all but closed its borders to travelers, reducing the number of international flights to just 200 a week, or 2% of pre-pandemic levels, China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in September.

The number of US flight scrappings has skyrocketed since December as infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus hit record highs in the United States.

Beijing and Washington have been at odds over airline services since the pandemic began. In August, the US Department of Transportation limited four Chinese airline flights to 40% of passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed identical restrictions on four United Airlines flights.

Before the recent cancellations, three US airlines and four Chinese airlines were operating about 20 flights a week between the countries, well below the number of more than 100 a week before the pandemic.

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