China’s CAAC to loosen restrictions on foreign carriers entering the country

Move comes after Trump administration threatens to bar access to Chinese airlines


The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on Thursday (4 June) that it will ease rules currently barring foreign airlines from flying to the mainland starting on 8 June. The curbs had been in place to prevent incoming passengers from spreading the COVID-19 virus that has killed almost 400,000 people around the world. The move comes after the US Department of Transportation, at the behest of President Donald Trump, proposed a new rule that would bar Chinese passenger airlines from flying to the US. Under the proposed rule, cargo flights could continue.

Download the new US DOT rule here.

Qualifying foreign carriers, about 95 of them currently barred from operating flights to China, will be allowed once-a-week flights into a city of their choosing, the CAAC said. Considering some countries are still banning international flights, the CAAC estimated the number of international flights would increase by 50 to 150 per week while the average of passengers arriving per day would rise to 4,700, up from around 3,000 now.

The CAAC said all airlines will be allowed to increase the number of international flights involving China to two per week if no passengers on their flights test positive for COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks. If five or more passengers on one flight test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, the CAAC will bar the airline from services for a week. Airlines would be suspended for four weeks if 10 passengers or more test positive.

Airlines around the world have had to ground thousands of planes due to the shutdown in passenger traffic. Some countries like China are starting to open up, but slowly. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The CAAC has slashed international flights since late March to allay concerns over rising coronavirus infections brought by arriving passengers. Mainland carriers are limited to one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines are allowed to operate just one flight a week to a city in China.

Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said at a daily briefing on Thursday the CAAC is lodging a complaint with the US Department of Transportation for the ruling against Chinese air carriers, according to media reports. He said the CAAC is in close cooperation with its US counterpart about passenger flights.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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