US Department Of Transportation Allows Limited Flights On Chinese Airlines

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has revoked an earlier order that prohibited Chinese carriers from flying to the US. On June 5th, the DoT said that China would be allowed to operate two flights per week to the United States. That means that of the four Chinese carriers currently serving in the US, at least two will need to stop.

Air China A380
The DoT has permitted China two weekly flights to the US. Photo: Getty Images

The US makes a u-turn on Chinese flight restrictions.

This week we’ve been following the escalating feud between the US and China regarding post-COVID-19 schedules. In the latest development, the US has now backed down on its harsh flight restrictions for Chinese carriers. But only slightly.

Having served an order on June 3rd to prevent the entry of all Chinese carriers into the US, the US Department of Transportation has now changed its decision. It had previously been expected that from June 16th, or earlier, if the President approved, no Chinese carriers would be allowed to enter the US until further notice.

The DoT has now said that it will allow some Chinese flights to enter the US. It issued an order on June 5th for two weekly round trip flights from the US to China which it deems to be:

“…an aggregate level of scheduled passenger services that would be equivalent to that permitted by Chinese aviation authorities for U.S. carriers.”

China Eastern Airlines B777
The US has evened out the playing field for some Chinese airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Currently, one service per week is operated to the US by the following Chinese carriers:

  • Air China.
  • China Eastern Airlines.
  • China Southern Airlines.
  • Xiamen Airlines.

That will now change. Only one or two of these airlines will be allowed to operate to the US, effective immediately.

China-US battle continues

While initially, the DoT’s order did show some promise, it’s clear now that this new regulation is simply an escalation of the existing feud.

The dispute began when China published an airline operating schedule that did not include American carriers Delta Air Lines and United Airlines for June. The Chinese state said that it had issued flight permissions based on airline activity as of March 12th. At that time, the US had already suspended flights to China. Therefore, China gave the two carriers a weekly flight allowance of zero.

Trump on Air Force 1
The DoT and POTUS were willing to prevent Chinese airlines from entering the US from June 16th. Photo: Getty Images

In retaliation, the DoT, with approval from President Trump, issued an order that prevented Chinese carriers from operating to the US from June 16th. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) swiftly implemented changes. It permitted the US one flight per airline per week. The decision also came with health conditions, which would give the airlines additional weekly flights if they complied.

Will China change its regulation?

The DoT’s Order 2020-6-3 is the latest negotiation between the two parties. However, it now appears that both countries have reached a stalemate with neither wishing to honor airline operating rights fully.

The DoT calls China’s decision an infringement of the US’ ability “to exercise fully their bilateral rights.” It stated that it does not wish for further trouble. However, it believes that China should first take onus. As such, the DoT has said that it is open to revising this new regulation pending alterations on China’s side.

United Airlines
Will China allow more flights from airlines like United? Photo: Getty Images

So, will China update its regulation? For now, it doesn’t look like anything will change. Unlike the US, China has a merit system by which US airlines, among other foreign carriers, can earn new service routes to China. There is little incentive for China to alter its regulation when compliance ultimately leads to US airlines achieving what they want. On the Chinese side, however, it’s a different story.

When will the US relax its policy to allow more flights? What will China have to do to earn back its flight permissions? Have your say in the comments.