China on Thursday said it would allow foreign airlines currently blocked from operating in the country over coronavirus concerns to resume limited flights, lifting a de facto ban on US carriers.
The move came hours after Washington on Wednesday ordered the suspension of all flights by Chinese airlines into and out of the United States after Beijing failed to allow American carriers to resume services to China.
The US action, which takes effect June 16 but could be implemented sooner if President Donald Trump orders it, applied to seven Chinese civilian carriers, although only four currently are running service to US cities including Air China and China Eastern Airlines, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said.
“US carriers have asked to resume passenger service, beginning June 1st. The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement,” the department said in a statement, reported AFP.
US air carriers sharply reduced or suspended service to China amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
United and Delta submitted applications at the beginning of May to resume flights but have been unable to receive authorization from Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), the DOT said.
The latest spat is rooted partly on the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) deciding to impose a limit for foreign airlines based on their activity as of March 12.
But US carriers had suspended all flights by that date because of the pandemic — meaning their cap was set at zero — while Chinese carriers’ flights to the US continued.
The CAAC on Thursday said all foreign airlines not listed in the March 12 schedule would now be able to operate one international route into China each week.
Passengers must be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in China.
Routes whose passengers all test negative for three consecutive weeks will be allowed to operate an additional flight each week.
And routes with five or more passengers testing positive will be suspended for at least one week for both foreign and domestic carriers, CAAC said.
The US-China relations have hit a rough patch on the issues of trade, the origins of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, Beijing’s new security crackdown in Hong Kong, Uighur crackdown and the communist nation’s aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea.
(With agency inputs)