Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese and American flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai, China, on April 14, 2021. REUTERS / Aly Song

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation said Wednesday it will limit some Chinese airlines’ flights to 40 percent of passenger capacity for four weeks after the Chinese government imposed limits similar to four United Airlines flights.

China told United on Aug. 6 that it was imposing sanctions after allegedly five passengers traveling from San Francisco to Shanghai tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21st.

The U.S. order indicated that the department will limit in a four-week period each of the four Chinese carriers to 40% capacity on a single China-US flight.

United Airlines said it was “pleased to see this action by the (Department of Transport) in pursuit of justice in this important market.”

Hua Chunying, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said Thursday that the United States has no reason to limit the air passenger capacity of Chinese airlines.

China’s policy on “circuit breakers” treats all airlines equitably, including domestic airlines, Hua said, adding that China will continue its policies to control the epidemic to curb the spread of the COVID virus. -19.

The U.S. government says China’s policy on “circuit breakers” violates the nations’ air services agreement and “imposes an undue blame on airlines for passengers who test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in China “.

The department added that carriers “have no means to independently verify the positive results of the tests alleged by the Chinese authorities. In addition, there is no way to establish where or when a passenger may have contracted.” the virus.

Chinese authorities gave United three options: cancel two flights from San Francisco to Shanghai; operate two without passengers; or operate four flights with up to 40% passenger capacity.

The limits were imposed on the four United Wednesdays

Flights San Francisco-Shanghai, starting with an August 11 flight.

The Biden administration said it will impose identical limits on four flights over four weeks: one for Air China (OTC :), China Eastern Airlines (NYSE :), China Southern Airlines Co and Xiamen Airlines.

The limits are reached, as many Chinese students head to the United States to begin fall classes.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, China and the United States have shot up air services.

In June 2020, the United States threatened to ban Chinese passenger flights after Beijing did not immediately agree to restore flights by US airlines.

U.S. carriers voluntarily stopped flights to China after the coronavirus outbreak. Then-President Donald Trump, on January 31, 2020, banned almost all non-US citizens from traveling to the United States who had been in China for the past 14 days.

These restrictions on Chinese travelers remain in place. The Biden administration in April eased restrictions on Chinese students traveling to U.S. schools beginning Aug. 1.

A long-standing airline agreement between China and the United States allows both countries to operate more than 100 weekly flights between the two nations, but only a fraction of these currently operate.

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