US reverses decision to ban China’s airlines from operating incoming flights, sets weekly limit instead

The Department of Transportation announced on Friday that it is no longer planning to ban China’s airlines from operating incoming flights, but rather restricting the number of total incoming flights to two per week. The news comes one day after the Civil Aviation Authority of China relaxed its restrictions for foreign carriers.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) initially announced plans to order a ban on all incoming passenger flights from China on Wednesday, in response to China not allowing U.S. carriers to resume flights to China as travel restrictions ease amid the coronavirus health crisis. The DOT said that by not allowing U.S. airlines to resume commercial flights to China, China was effectively breaching the U.S.-China Air Transport Agreement, which was established in 1980.

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On Thursday, China’s aviation authority (CAAC) released a statement confirming that the country would allow more foreign carriers to operate once-weekly flights to China, provided they meet certain requirements. However, the CAAC’s statements did not specifically mention the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tuesday decision, nor any specific carriers that were hoping to resume flights, such as United and Delta, which had both submitted applications to the CAAC that have yet to be approved.

Instead, the CAAC’s announcement confirmed that airlines that continued their operations to China under the CAAC’s “Phase 5” flight plan would be allowed to keep making once-weekly flights. Those that were not on that plan would also be allowed to make one flight, per week, starting on June 8, and “within the scope of the company’s operating license.”

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