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The U.S. has suspended 44 U.S. flights of Chinese carriers following China’s action

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing a mask, in the midst of a new coronavirus health threat, arrived on a direct flight from China to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA on January 24, 2020. REUTERS / Kamil Krzaczynski / Photo File

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government said Friday it would suspend 44 flights from the United States to China in response to a decision by the Chinese government over COVID-19 and a decision to suspend some U.S. carriers.

The shutdown will begin on January 30 with Xiamen Airlines flying to Los Angeles and will run until March 29, the Department of Transportation said.

The decision will cut some flights in Xiamen, Air China (OTC :), China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines (NYSE :).

Since December 31, Chinese authorities have suspended 20 United Airlines, 10 American Airlines (NASDAQ 🙂 and 14 Delta Air Lines (NYSE 🙂 flights after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation said the Chinese government had announced that it had canceled flights to the United States.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Friday that the policy of international passenger flights entering China “applied equally to Chinese and foreign airlines in a fair, open and transparent manner.”

He described the move as “very absurd” and said the Chinese airline was “urging the US to suspend and restrict regular passenger flights”.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents three carriers affected by the Chinese move along with others in the U.S., said it supports Washington’s action to “ensure fair treatment of U.S. airlines in the Chinese market.”

The Department of Transportation said France and Germany had taken similar measures against China’s COVID-19 actions. He said China’s suspension of 44 flights was “against the public interest and calls for corrective action.” He added that China’s “unilateral action against designated carriers in the United States” is inconsistent with a bilateral agreement.

China has also canceled a number of flights by Chinese carriers to the United States, after which passengers tested positive.

The department said it was ready to review its action if China revised its “policies to improve the situation necessary for U.S. carriers.” He warned that if China cancels more flights, “we reserve the right to take additional measures.”

China has closed restrictions on passengers and reduced the total number of international flights to 200 per week, or 2% of pre-pandemic levels, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in September.

The number of flights being ruled out in the U.S. has risen since December as infections caused by highly contagious variants of the coronary virus Omicron have risen in the United States.

Beijing and Washington have been discussing air services since the pandemic began. In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation restricted four Chinese carrier flights to 40% of passenger capacity for four weeks since Beijing imposed the same limits on four United Airlines flights.

Prior to the recent cancellations, three U.S. airlines and four Chinese airlines were operating about 20 flights a week between countries, well below the pandemic figure of well over 100 a week.

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