The United States has rejected a request by Chinese airlines for more service to the USA, but done so gently.
How We Reached This Point
U.S. carriers suspended China service in winter, over falling demand and COVID-19 concerns. With the virus thought to be under control outside the latest Beijing flareup, U.S. carriers want to resume service, even if U.S. citizens are still not allowed in the country.
But China declared that only carriers operating on March 12, 2020 could operate between the two nations. Conveniently, only Chinese airlines were operating on that date. Labelled an arbitrary move that violated the bilateral air service agreement between the two nations, the U.S. blocked all Chinese airlines from serving the United States. The ban was due to go into effect June 16.
The ban prompted China to quickly reverse course. Suddenly, U.S. carriers were permitted to operate one flight per week, the same as Chinese carriers. Again, the U.S. pushed back, stating that such limits did not capture the spirit of the bilateral deal and still created an uneven playing field since more Chinese carriers served the U.S. than U.S. carriers serving China.
Earlier this week, the two sides reached a compromise, with each country allowing four flights per week. The U.S. indicated that it would allow more flights if China would allow more flights.
Chinese Airlines Want To Add More U.S. Service
The Chinese airlines wishing to serve the USA are more numerous than the U.S. carriers wanting to serve Mainland China. The compromise meant that not every Chinese airline would be allowed to operate to the USA.
Currently, these four flights operate:
- Air China (Beijing [PEK] – Los Angeles [LAX])
- China Eastern (Shanghai [PVG] – New York [JFK])
- China Southern (Guangzhou [CAN] – Los Angeles [LAX])
- Xiamen Airlines (Xiamen [XMN] – Los Angeles [LAX])
Hoping to avoid a game of musical chairs, Chinese carriers requested additional service to the United States after the four flight compromise was reached.
U.S. Gently Rejects Chinese Airlines’ Flight Requests
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected that request. The DOT said its decision was in order “maintain the parity” between the two nations. But it also invited China to open up more routes so the U.S. could do the same. The order was also gentle, in that it went out of its way to reduce tension:
“The Department has conveyed to our Chinese counterparts that this order is a procedural matter only and that it should not be viewed as an escalation on our part.”
The gentle words may allow China to “save face” and loosen its airline restrictions, which would increase air service to both countries.
The U.S. has rejected the latest request from Chinese airlines to add more service to the USA. It claims it is doing so on “parity” grounds, but went to great lengths to argue that it is not trying to “escalate” tensions by its rejection. Both countries now have the opportunity to reduce tensions further by being the first to allow additional air service.