President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday barred Chinese passenger carriers from flying to the United States starting on June 16 as it pressures Beijing to let U.S. air carriers resume flights amid simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies, Reuters informed.
The move, announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, penalizes China for failing to comply with an existing agreement on flights between the two countries. U.S.-Chinese relations have soured in recent months amid tensions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s move to impose new national security legislation for Hong Kong.
The order applies to Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines Co, and Hainan Airlines Holding Co, as well as smaller Sichuan Airlines Co and Xiamen Airlines Co. Chinese carriers are currently flying four round-trip flights to the United States weekly.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have asked to resume flights to China this month, even as Chinese carriers have continued U.S. flights during the pandemic.
Delta said in a statement on Wednesday that “we support and appreciate the U.S. government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness.” United said it looks forward to resuming passenger service between the United States and China “when the regulatory environment allows us to do so.”
China “remains unable” to say when it will revise its rules “to allow U.S. carriers to reinstate scheduled passenger flights,” a formal order signed by the Transportation Department’s top aviation official Joel Szabat said.
“We will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours,” the department said in a separate statement.
The Trump administration on May 22 accused China’s government of making it impossible for U.S. airlines to resume service to China and ordered four Chinese carriers to file flight schedules with the U.S. government.
The Chinese carriers are flying no more than one scheduled round-trip flight a week to the United States but also have flown a significant number of additional charter flights, often to help Chinese students return home.
Hainan had planned to fly between New York’s JFK airport and Chongqing starting in July, while other carriers have flights to Los Angeles and New York. China Eastern wants to resume additional flights later this year to Chicago and San Francisco.