US suspends 44 flights to China from Chinese airlines
Originally posted: Jan 23 22 11:55 PM ET
Updated: Jan 24 22 07:37 ET
By Greg Wallace and Pete Muntean, CNN Business
(CNN) – Washington is suspending more than three dozen flights from Chinese carriers over the next two months, the latest escalation in a squabble on pandemic travel rules between the United States and China.
On Friday, the US Department of Transportation announced it would suspend 44 flights to China operated by Chinese carriers from the United States between late January and late March.
The order – which applies to flights operated by Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines – was issued “in response” to measures by Chinese aviation authorities that forced US carriers to cancel the same number flights, according to the US Department of Transportation.
Many flights to China from the United States have been canceled in recent weeks due to a so-called “circuit breaker” rule the Civil Aviation Administration of China has applied to international flights. The rule, enacted last June, means a flight is automatically suspended for two weeks if five or more passengers test positive upon landing in China. If 10 or more passengers test positive, the period of suspension increases.
China has defended its “circuit breaker” regulations as “an important step to reduce the risk of cross-border spread of the epidemic”.
With the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and Beijing’s push to control the risk of outbreaks ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, these rules have made flying from the United States to China incredibly difficult. Earlier this month, CNN Business research of government announcements and published flight schedules showed it was almost impossible to find a flight from the United States to China due to Chinese airline regulations.
The “circuit breaker” rule has affected several US carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
In its Friday order, the US Department of Transportation argued that China’s policy is unfair because it places “undue guilt” on carriers, since the “circuit breaker” may apply to passengers who test negative before boarding. board the plane but then test positive for Covid-19 up to seven days after arrival.
The Chinese government is “individually authorizing each prospective traveler to travel to China prior to departure from the United States, after verifying pre-departure test results and other required documentation,” the transportation department wrote, adding that U.S. carriers who follow Chinese regulations “should not be penalized if passengers, after arrival, subsequently test positive for Covid-19.”
China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday called the US decision “an act of rudeness and irresponsibility”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the country’s “circuit breaker” measures are “fair, open and transparent”, adding that they treat Chinese and foreign airlines equally.
The measures have played an important role in “effectively” blocking the cross-border spread of the virus, he told a press conference in Beijing.
China largely sealed off its borders in March 2020 and continued to stick to its strict zero-Covid policy. Flights to and from China – the world’s second largest air travel market after the United States – have been cut significantly, even as international travel has started to rebound in other parts of the world.
Last month, a Delta flight from Seattle to Shanghai turned in the air due to a change in cleaning procedures at the Chinese airport that “has significantly extended ground time and is not operationally viable,” according to the airline. Chinese officials disputed the account, urging the carrier to “protect customers’ legitimate rights.”
The Beijing Winter Games, meanwhile, open on Feb. 4 and participants mostly take special flights reserved for people with Olympic titles under a strict bubble authorities are putting in place around the Beijing Winter Games. ‘event.
— Steven Jiang and CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.
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