U.S. authorities cut off some flights of four Chinese carriers after Beijing stopped some U.S. carrier services after finding COVID cases.
The U.S. government has said it will suspend 44 flights to China in response to a decision by the Chinese government to suspend flights to some U.S. airlines due to concerns about COVID-19.
Interruptions will begin on January 30 with Xiamen Airlines flying to Los Angeles and will continue until March 29, the Department of Transportation said.
The decision will cut some flights between Xiamen, Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.
Chinese authorities have suspended 20 United Airlines, 10 American Airlines and 14 Delta Air Lines flights since Dec. 31 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 “has been applied equally to Chinese and foreign airlines in a fair, open and transparent manner.”
He described the US move as “very absurd” and added that “we urge the US side to stop the Chinese airline from interrupting and restricting regular passenger flights.”
Airlines for America, along with three other carriers affected by the Chinese move, along with other U.S. trade groups, 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 in response to China’s COVID-19 actions.
He said China’s suspension of 44 flights was “against the public interest and required 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 reviewed its “policies to improve the situation necessary for U.S. carriers.” If China cancels more flights, it warns that “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 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in September.
The number of flights being phased out in the U.S. has been on the rise since December, when infections caused by highly contagious variants of the coronavirus Omicron in the U.S. have risen.
Beijing and Washington have been discussing air services since the pandemic began. In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation banned four Chinese carrier flights for four weeks from being reduced to 40 percent of passengers since Beijing imposed the same restrictions 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.