China allows foreign airlines to fly once a week

Before the pandemic, American and Chinese airlines operated about 325 flights a week between the two countries. GREG BAKER / AFP

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While it has drastically cut its links to the rest of the world due to a pandemic, China announced on Thursday June 4 that all foreign airlines could resume a limited number of flights as of June 8, de facto lifting l ban on US carriers.


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All airlines will be able to fly weekly to and from China, the Air Traffic Regulatory Authority (CAAC) said in a statement as Washington threatens to suspend flights by Chinese airlines.

However, specifies the CAAC, the passengers will have to be tested on their arrival on Chinese soil. Airlines will be able to obtain a second weekly flight if none of the passengers test positive for Covid-19 for three weeks on the same route.

Until now, Beijing has allowed airlines to fly weekly to and from a foreign country, but based on a list of airlines operating as of March 12. However, many foreign companies, especially American, were no longer serving China at that date due to the pandemic.

De facto, only four Chinese airlines currently operate flights between the United States and China against zero for their American rivals. Washington sees it as an obstacle to competition.

US threat to suspend flights of Chinese airlines

This decision by China comes the day after the Trump administration announced the next suspension of flights by Chinese companies bound for the United States, in a context of already very intense tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The ban, which will take effect on June 16, was designed to respond to the Chinese authorities' refusal to allow American airlines to resume operations in China despite the deconfinement, the US Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday. It is not excluded, warned the latter, that the implementation of this measure will occur before June 16 if Donald Trump decides.

The ban affects seven Chinese companies, including the behemoths Air China and China Eastern Airlines, but does not affect cargo planes. American airlines have asked to resume service [in China], effective June 1. The failure of the Chinese government to approve their requests is a violation of the  "air transport agreement between the two countries since 1980," said the US department.

325 American flights per week before the pandemic

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended flights to and from China in February and March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and to comply with travel restrictions announced in early February by the United States government. They wanted to resume activity in the country this month and had submitted their requests to the Chinese civil aviation authorities in May.

Before the epidemic, at the start of the year, American and Chinese airlines operated about 325 flights a week between the two countries. Washington nevertheless said Wednesday ready to reverse its decision if Beijing made a gesture vis-à-vis the American groups.

Read also: Coronavirus: China and the United States "on the brink of a new cold war"

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  • Coronavirus
  • China
  • Transport
  • United States

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