In tit-for-tat response, US blocks Chinese airlines after Beijing’s action

Washington [US] (ANI): The US on Friday (local time) in a counterstroke to China’s virus policy blocked 44 passenger flights by Chinese airlines as Beijing had taken the same step against American carriers as part of its strict coronavirus control policies.
The move comes as China has been suspending flights by American carriers after alleging in-bound passengers had later tested positive for the coronavirus, said Ian Duncan, a reporter covering federal transportation agencies and the politics of transportation, writing in The Washington Post. The US Transportation Department issued an order Friday blocking 44 passenger flights by Chinese airlines. The restrictions begin on January 30 and run until March 29. The move will affect flights between Los Angeles and New York and five Chinese cities, reported The Washington Post.
Since the early days of the pandemic, the Chinese government has imposed a policy known as the “circuit breaker” that imposed limits on inbound flights by airlines if their passengers subsequently test positive for the coronavirus.
The US government argued that the policy is an unfair restriction on aviation that violates a long-standing agreement between the two countries.
The dispute over US-China aviation during the pandemic has been rumbling since late spring of 2020, when the Trump administration moved to block flights from China. The two countries eventually agreed to allow limited schedules.
In August, the Chinese government imposed capacity limits on United Airlines, an alternative sanction under the circuit breaker. The United States responded, targeting Chinese airlines, said Duncan.
The new US order goes further, banning passengers altogether. The four Chinese carriers targeted in the order will be permitted to continue operating flights from the United States to China if they only carry cargo. They still are allowed to carry passengers from China to the United States.
The suspended flights to China begin on January 30 and include flights from the carriers Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines Company and Air China.
Airlines that operate a China-bound flight that contains between five and nine passengers who subsequently test positive for the coronavirus are supposed to have two options: suspend that flight for two weeks or limit that flight’s capacity to 40 percent for four weeks. The Chinese government says it applies the rules in the same way to domestic and international airlines, said Duncan.
But the Transportation Department says in the case of the most recent incidents, the US carriers were not given the choice and were told they must cancel the flights, while being denied advance warning.
“US carriers, who are following all relevant Chinese regulations with respect to pre-departure and in-flight protocols, should not be penalized if passengers, post-arrival, later test positive for COVID-19,” the department wrote in Friday’s order.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, which has had 14 flights suspended by China in recent weeks, said, “We appreciate continued US government efforts to ensure fairness and access to China.”

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