The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced on Thursday that it will be allowing more foreign airlines to resume some of their flights to China as of June 8.
The CAAC’s decision comes the day after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to ban China’s airlines from operating passenger flights to and from the U.S., in response to China not allowing U.S. carriers to resume flights to China as travel restrictions ease amid the coronavirus health crisis.
The CAAC’s new policy, however, does not specifically acknowledge the Department of Transportation’s ban, nor does it make reference to specific carriers that were hoping to resume flights, such as United and Delta, which had both submitted applications to the CAAC that have yet to be approved.
Instead, the announcement confirmed that airlines that continued their operations to China under the CAAC’s “Phase 5” flight plan would be allowed to keep making once-weekly flights.
Those that were not on that plan would also be allowed to make one flight per week starting on June 8, and “within the scope of the company's operating license.”
The CAAC also announced incentives for airlines that record no passengers testing positive for coronavirus on flights specific to China for three consecutive weeks: Foreign carriers that achieve this goal can operate two flights per week. Meanwhile, if five of a specific carrier’s passengers test positive on the same route, their service will be suspended for one week.
It’s unclear if the CAAC’s new policies were enacted in response to the Trump administration’s decision to ban Chinese airlines from operating passenger flights to the U.S., although the Chinese foreign ministry was reportedly planning to make “solemn complaints” to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) about Wednesday’s announcement, per The Associated Press.
“Some progress has already been made in the arrangements. China has also announced adjustments of its policies,” said a ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “We hope the United States will not create obstacles for solving the problem.”
Prior to the CAAC’s Thursday announcement, the DOT had specifically stated that its ban on Chinese airlines was a direct response to China’s failure to allow U.S. carriers to resume routes to China, writing that it was a violation of the U.S.-China Air Transport Agreement, which was established in 1980.
“Currently, four Chinese carriers and no U.S. carriers operate scheduled passenger flights between the United States and China,” read the DOT’s statement. “U.S. carriers have asked to resume passenger service, beginning June 1st. The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement.”
The DOT’s order named airlines operated by Air China; Beijing Capital Airlines Co., Ltd.; China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited; China Southern Airlines Company Limited; Hainan Airlines Holding Co. Ltd.; Sichuan Airlines Co., Ltd.; and Xiamen Airlines.
The order also stated that the three U.S. carriers that suspended service to China in February (American, United and Delta) had hoped to resume service to the country in June, but those that submitted applications to the Civil Aviation Authority of China (Delta, United) had not been approved.
The DOT’s ban is currently slated to take effect on June 16, or possibly earlier, on President Trump’s orders.
The Associated Press and Fox News' Brie Stimson contributed to this report.