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Trump administration bans flights by Chinese airlines


Thursday June 4, 2020


Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

In a move likely to further inflame tensions between the United States and China, the Trump administration said Wednesday it will ban all commercial passenger flights by Chinese carriers beginning later this month.

The change, announced by the Department of Transportation and beginning June 16, is in response to China's refusal to allow U.S. carriers to resume service to China.

The rule would impact operations of seven carriers, including Air China and China Eastern Airlines. The department noted in its rule filing that the ban could take effect sooner at President Trump's discretion. Still, the June 16 date does give the two sides some time to iron out their differences and avert a ban.

U.S. carriers had halted flights to the region in the wake of State Department advisories cautioning against travel to the region and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration that barred most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States from China because of concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Delta and United airlines, however, had hoped to resume flights to China in early June, but U.S. officials said rules imposed by Chinese authorities effectively prevent them from doing so. The Transportation Department’s order does not impact cargo operations between the two countries.

“Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights,” the rule says. “Should the [Civil Aviation Authority of China] adjust its policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for U.S. carriers, the Department is fully prepared to revisit the action it has announced in this order.”

A representative of state-owned Air China, the nation’s flagship carrier, declined to comment on the potential hardship to the company or would-be passengers, or on how the two sides might resolve the impasse.

This latest dust-up is just one of several ongoing disputes between the two countries. Trump has blasted China for not upholding its end of a trade agreement signed in January, in which Chinese officials pledged to increase purchase of U.S. goods by $200 billion over the next two years. The president also has criticized China for its handling of the pandemic, and Chinese officials have similarly slammed the U.S. response.

U.S. carriers applauded the Trump administration's move.

“We support and appreciate the U.S. government's actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness,” said Lisa Hanna, a spokeswoman for Delta, which hopes to resume flights June 11.

Added Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an industry trade group: “We believe DOT’s order will ensure fair and equal opportunity for passenger airlines with respect to service to and from China. We hope that this process will protect the rights afforded to U.S. carriers under the current U.S.-China Air Transport Agreeme



 





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