The U.S. Department of Transportation has walked back a proposed ban on all Chinese airlines flying into the U.S., now saying the country will be immediately allowed with a total of two round-trip flights here per week.
The relaxation from a full ban came after the Civil Aviation Authority of China revised a policy the DOT said effectively kept U.S. airlines locked out of restarting flights to China.
On Thursday, the CAAC said it would allow some 95 foreign airlines including Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines Inc. one weekly service per week into one approved Chinese gateway city.
That move came after the U.S. just Wednesday announced that it would begin banning all flights operated by Chinese airlines June 16 in response to what it deemed unfair treatment of U.S. carriers looking to restart service to China.
China had allowed foreign carriers to resume service based on their March 12 schedules. DOT said this amounted to locking out U.S. airlines, because all American passenger carriers had pulled out of China by that point due to the global pandemic and travel bans on both sides. Delta was one of them, but it had planned to restart two flights to China in June.
The DOT was clear in a notice Friday that the issue had not been fully resolved and that it was still seeking a return to normalcy but that the “most recent CAAC action has not created that environment.”
“As a general matter, we are troubled by China’s continued unilateral dictation of the terms of the U.S.-China scheduled passenger air transportation market without respect for the rights of U.S. carriers under the Agreement,” the notice reads.
The CAAC must notify the U.S. DOT which Chinese airlines are selected to operate the two weekly flights into the U.S. While short of a full ban, the U.S. action still cuts in half the number of flights that China was allowing its airlines to undertake to the U.S.
Delta continues to operate cargo flights out of China, which are unaffected by the regulations.
The airline, which also boasts an investment stake in China Eastern Airlines, relaunched its Atlanta-Shanghai flight in July 2018 after a decade-long hiatus as part of an expanded outreach to the country Before the pandemic, Delta also served China from hubs in Seattle and Detroit.