China eases rules for foreign airlines after US retaliated with ban

Jun 4, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Foreign carriers will be allowed to resume service to China next week.

That’s the latest update from the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), which eliminated a schedule technicality that prevented most foreign airlines from flying there. The change comes in an ongoing shadow dance between Beijing and Washington over a number of issues, including aviation.

The aviation spat was elevated Wednesday when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would bar Chinese airlines from serving U.S. airports beginning June 16 as long as American carriers remain prohibited from flying to China. Delta and United had sought permission to resume service to China, but the CAAC had failed to act on those requests.

The DOT has not provided an update in light of the latest news from China, but previously said it would reconsider the policy if China relaxed its stance.

Though Thursday’s announcement by China represents a more relaxed policy for foreign airlines, the new permission comes with a series of restrictions that will limit service into the summer.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more aviation news.

For now, foreign carriers will only be allowed to operate one flight per week to a single city on a list of approved destinations. That means both Delta, which planned to resume China service this week, and United, which planned to do so later this month, will — at least initially — have to scale down those plans.

Delta intended to operate two daily flights to Shanghai Pudong (PVG), one from Detroit (DTW) and one from Seattle (SEA), both stopping at Seoul Incheon (ICN).

United planned to serve both Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai beginning June 15. It planned to fly to both cities from San Francisco (SFO), plus a flight from Newark (EWR) to Shanghai.

Now, both airlines will have to choose which routes will get priority.

Related: American, Delta and United plan to fly these long-haul international routes in June.

CAAC’s new guidelines have a phased plan for allowing foreign carriers to increase their schedules to China.

Airlines will be allowed to move to two flights per week, so long as no arriving passengers test positive for COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks.

The CAAC said it will bar airlines from operating for a week if five passengers on any single flight test positive for COVID-19, and will suspend carriers for four weeks if 10 passengers or more test positive.

Related: How coronavirus could change the way we travel.

That policy puts the onus on carriers to make sure their customers are coronavirus-free, possibly turning up the pressure on airlines to devise health checks for passengers traveling to China.

Previously, foreign carriers had already been permitted a single weekly flight to China, but that policy had a large asterisk: they could only operate if they were serving China during the week of March 12. Most international airlines, including all U.S. carriers, had already stopped their routes to China by then, as fears about spreading coronavirus mounted. So, 95% of foreign operators were effectively barred from serving China, according to Reuters.

CAAC’s new policy removes that schedule restriction.

Read more: How far can airborne COVID germs really spread on a plane?

Chinese carriers have continued serving the U.S. with passenger and cargo-only flights throughout the pandemic, so the two countries have not been totally cut off from one another. It’s unclear if the CAAC’s contagion restrictions will apply to China-based carriers as well.

Even as restrictions for carriers relax, China is still barring most foreign nationals from entering the country, so only Chinese citizens will be able to avail themselves of the flights that are operating for the time being.

Featured photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.