Etihad Gets 1 Week Shanghai Flight Ban Due To COVID-19 Cases

UAE flag-carrier Etihad Airways has been banned for another week from operating flights to China after five passengers on a flight from Abu Dhabi tested positive for COVID-19 a little over a week ago. It is not the only carrier to have its flights to Shanghai suspended under the CAAC’s reward and penalty mechanism.

Etihad, Inbound flights, United Arab Emirates
Etihad is banned from flying to China until the end of the month due to passengers testing positive for COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has slapped Etihad Airways with another week’s flight ban. The decision came as five passengers on Flight EY862, traveling from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai on August 15th, tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

Suspended until the end of the month

This new week constituted an extension of a suspension that came into effect on August 17th. Six passengers tested positive when arriving with Etihad to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on August 3rd, only a week after Etihad resumed flights to China. As such, Etihad is now banned from operating its route to Shanghai until August 31st.

Etihad requires that passengers to China show a negative COVID PCR-test issued within 48 hours of departure. This is a stricter policy than for the airline’s other destinations, where a test result can be no older than 96 hours before take-off.

The Gulf carrier also requires that children and even infants are tested before flights to Shanghai, whereas children under 12 are exempt in other cases. This includes passengers transferring via Abu Dhabi.

Etihad requires all passengers to present a negative PCR test before traveling. Photo: Getty Images.

Reward and penalty

While China requires a negative COVID test done no more than 48 hours before departure to be cleared to travel, it also tests all incoming international travelers on arrival. If passengers test positive, airlines receive a one-week flight suspension. Should more than ten passengers from one flight test positive, the time is extended to a full four weeks.

However, if all of an airline’s passengers test negative for three weeks in a row, the CAAC will allow that carrier to increase flights from the currently permitted one to two per week. These regulations are known as the “reward and circuit breaker mechanism.”

SriLankan Airlines suspended from China
The CAAC has suspended Srilankan Airlines for four weeks. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia Commons

Srilankan banned for a month

Etihad is not the only carrier to have had its China operations suspended as a result of positive test results. Domestic airline China Eastern also saw its route from Manila to Shanghai suspended after six passengers tested positive when arriving from the Philippine capital.

Furthermore, China has grounded Srilankan Airlines’ flights from Colombo to Shanghai after an entire 23 people tested positive on an August 7th flight, qualifying it for a four-week suspension.

What do you think of China’s regulations suspending airlines if passengers test positive? Is it a reasonable way of trying to keep contagion out of the country, or is it overzealous? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.