The U.S. Transportation Department said it’s going to suspend 44 China-bound flights by Chinese carriers after China suspended dozens of similar flights by U.S. carriers.
Biden administration announced on Friday that the United States was to ground Xiamen Airlines’ scheduled flights from Los Angeles to Xiamen starting Jan. 30. In addition, the United States will cut some China-bound flights on Xiamen Airlines, Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern.
The action is the Biden administration’s response to China’s recent suspension of 44 flights by U.S. carriers to China, in the name of COVID-19 pandemic control.
On Jan. 20, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued another circuit breaker order to suspend two Delta Airlines flight to Shanghai from Feb. 7, as eight passengers on the carrier’s Detroit to Shanghai flight DL283 tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus on Jan. 12.
In addition, China has also canceled six American Airlines Dallas to Shanghai flights scheduled for late January and early February, six United Airlines San Francisco to Shanghai flights in late January, and all Delta Airlines Shanghai-bound flights.
The Chinese regime announced its first airlines circuit breaker measures for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The measures, according to CAAC, say that if five to nine passengers test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in China, their flight route will be suspended for two weeks, while if more than 10 passengers test positive, the flight route needs to be suspended for four weeks.
Citing the circuit breaker measure, China has already suspended 70 flights between the United States and China since the state of the year, intensifying the dispute between the two countries over air travel.
After China’s suspension of more U.S. flights this month, Chinese posted from overseas on Chinese social media platform Weibo that “going back to China now seems like mission impossible. More and more flights are being suspended. I haven’t been home for two years.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation said that Beijing’s suspension of flights “are adverse to the public interest and warrant proportionate remedial action.” In addition, the statement stressed that Beijing’s “unilateral actions against the named U.S. carriers are inconsistent” with a bilateral agreement between the United States and China.
At the same time, the Biden administration has said it has left a path to de-escalation. The Transportation Department said it was also prepared to revisit this action if China changes its “policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for U.S. carriers.” However, the United States also warned that if China cancels more U.S. flights, “we reserve the right to take additional actions.”
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and China have clashed several times over air services. Before this round of flight cancellations, three U.S. airlines and four Chinese airlines operated about 20 weekly flights between the two countries, well below the more than 100 weekly flights operating before the pandemic.
According to Reuters, there are currently only about 200 international flights to China every week, only 2 percent of the pre-epidemic level. It has brought inconvenience to a large number of Chinese citizens overseas who want to return home, and China’s economic activities have also been greatly affected.
Reuters contributed to the report.