US eases rules on Chinese passenger airlines

Chinese carriers allowed two flights weekly to and from US after China allowed some US carriers access to mainland

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China eased restrictions on foreign carriers and the US has stepped back from plans to completely bar Chinese airlines from the US. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

American officials backtracked a bit in their crackdown on Chinese passenger airlines and said on 4 June they would allow Chinese carriers the right to operate two weekly passenger flights to and from the United States. China said the initial restrictions were to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed almost 400,000 people globally.


Download the revised order here.


The US Department of Transportation had earlier said it would bar Chinese airlines from flying passengers to and from the US saying Beijing had failed to approve resumption of these routes by US airlines. Beijing said in response it would ease flight restrictions on foreign carriers, allowing them one weekly flight to one city.

While the Department of Transportation said it would allow a total of two round-trip flights a week by Chinese airlines, the department also said China’s restrictions still impaired the rights of US carriers to operate flights under an agreement that governs air travel between the two countries.

While the order eases the threatened passenger flight ban, it will still cut in half the number of flights that Chinese carriers currently operate. Chinese carriers are permitted to operate a total of four weekly passenger flights to the U.S. under the limits Chinese aviation authorities set in March in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Airlines around the world have been forced to ground their fleets as aviation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Steve Strike/Outback Photographics)

“The department’s overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights,” the department said in its revised order. “The most recent [Civil Aviation Administration of China] action has not created that environment.”

Currently four Chinese airlines — Air China, China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Airlines and China Eastern Airlines — operate scheduled passenger flights between the two countries, the Transportation Department said. Others had intended to resume service in the coming months.


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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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