WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Thursday it would suspend 26 China-bound flights from the United States by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government’s decision to suspend some U.S. carrier flights over COVID-19 cases.
The decision will suspend 26 flights by Xiamen, Air China (OTC:AIRYY), China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:CEA) starting Sept. 5 and running through Sept. 28. The U.S. Department of Transportation cited the recent cancellation of 26 American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and United Airlines flights over COVID-19 cases.
The suspensions include 19 flights from Los Angeles and 7 China Eastern flights from New York.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.
USDOT said as of Aug. 7 Chinese authorities revised their policies so if the number of passengers testing positive for COVID-19 reached 4% of the total number of passengers on a flight to China, one flight would be suspended and two flights if it reached 8%.
USDOT said the U.S. government has repeatedly raised
objections with the government of China saying the rules place “undue culpability on carriers” when travelers test negative before boarding their flight from the United States only to “test positive for COVID-19 after their arrival in China.”
Beijing and Washington have sparred over air services since the start of the pandemic. In August 2021, USDOT limited four flights from Chinese carriers to 40% passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed identical limits on four United Airlines flights.
Before the recent cancellations, three U.S. airlines and four Chinese carriers were operating about 20 flights a week between the countries, well below the figure of more than 100 per week before the pandemic.