China Changes Course on Flight Approval Formula

 - June 4, 2020, 2:28 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Thursday said it would modify its policy on international passenger flights to allow more foreign carriers to resume service on a once-a-week basis, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. The move comes a day after the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order that bars Chinese carriers from entry into the U.S. effective June 16 in response to China’s failure to grant entry approval to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

The Chinese ban results from a clause in an order limiting its own airlines to one weekly flight to any country and foreign airlines one weekly passenger flight into China based on a particular airline’s March 12 schedule. However, U.S. carriers suspended passenger flights into China in early February due to declining demand, meaning the order prevented them from reinstating service, while Chinese airlines could maintain service to and from each foreign market served as of the March 12 baseline date, including the U.S.  

United and Delta announced their intent to resume scheduled passenger services on various routes and submitted applications to the CAAC at the beginning of May 2020. Although the CAAC notified U.S. authorities that it would consider removing the March benchmark, it added that its limit of one weekly flight to China would remain. According to the DOT, that restriction violates the U.S.-China Civil Aviation agreement of 1980.

Although it remains unclear whether China’s relaxation of its rules came as a reaction to the U.S. order, it appears the move by China will apply to United and Delta. Airlines can file their plans with the CAAC to fly until October 24. Separately, the CAAC will introduce a new mechanism effective June 8 that would reward airlines whose passengers all test negative for Covid for three weeks in a row by allowing them to increase the number of flights to two per week. Meanwhile, if the number of passengers testing positive reaches five, the CAAC will enact a weeklong suspension of the airline’s flights, according to Xinhua. If the number of passengers testing positive reaches 10, then the suspension would last four weeks.