Airlines in the United States claim that China is pushing them to cancel flights.
China, according to US airlines, has barred more than a dozen recent and upcoming flights from entering the country, strengthening already-stringent COVID-19 travel restrictions.
According to industry officials, China ordered the cancellations after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on planes that arrived in China in late December.
Six American Airlines flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Shanghai have been cancelled for late January and early February, according to the airline. United Airlines has announced that six flights from San Francisco to Shanghai will be cancelled later this month. Delta Air Lines has cancelled two flights to Shanghai, one last week and the other this Friday.
Airlines for America, which represents the top passenger and freight carriers in the United States, said it was discussing the issue with US and Chinese government authorities to see what could be done to reduce the impact on travellers.
There was no quick response from the Biden administration.
The flight cancellations are the latest twist in a long-running conflict between the two countries over international flights and laws aimed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Following recent outbreaks of COVID-19, China has tightened travel restrictions as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in early February. Inbound flights in China are limited in capacity (now at 75 percent) and passengers must be tested both before and after arrival.
Depending on the number of positive instances, the airline that carried them may be obliged to cancel two to four flights.
Delta announced last month that stricter cleaning regulations for planes between flights forced a plane heading for Shanghai to return to Seattle. The airline said that the new rules would cause planes to spend more time on the ground in Shanghai and that they were unworkable. Delta’s action drew a protest from the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
After China agreed to let the United and Delta restart limited operations that had been stopped earlier in the outbreak, the Trump administration backed down from a threat to prohibit four Chinese airlines in 2020.
After China put similar restrictions on United Airlines, the US Transportation Department reduced the number of passengers on four Chinese airlines’ flights to the US in August. According to the United States, China is imposing an undue burden on American airlines for travellers who test positive after arriving in China.