BEIJING/WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - China ordered on
Wednesday the suspension of six more U.S. flights in coming
weeks after a surge in passengers testing positive for COVID-19,
rising to 70 cancellations mandated this year in a schedule that
had already been cut back drastically.
The aviation regulator said it would suspend two additional
United Airlines flights from San Francisco to Shanghai,
after seven passengers tested positive on a recent flight.
It will also suspend four China Southern Airlines
flights from Los Angeles to Guangzhou from the week
of Jan. 31, a move that would also affect return flights in
Before the latest cancellations, three U.S. airlines and
four Chinese carriers were operating about 20 flights a week
between the countries, well below the figure of more than 100
per week before the pandemic.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing United,
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and others,
said U.S. carriers "are concerned about the implications of a
disruption and are continuing to assess the impact to
operations. We are in communication with the U.S. and Chinese
governments to identify a path forward that minimizes impact to
The U.S. Transportation Department did not immediately
China has been suspending routes with other countries as
well. On Wednesday it suspended a total of six flights from
France and Canada.
But the number of U.S. flights being scrapped has surged
since December, as infections caused by the highly contagious
Omicron variant soar to record highs in the United States.
Beijing and Washington have sparred over air services since
the start of the pandemic. In August, the U.S. Department of
Transportation limited four flights from Chinese carriers to 40%
passenger capacity for four weeks after Beijing imposed
identical limits on four United Airlines flights.
China has all but shut its borders to travelers, cutting
total international flights to just 200 a week, or 2% of
pre-pandemic levels, the Civil Aviation Administration of China
(CAAC) said in September.
What is effectively a zero-COVID-19 policy has curbed any
wide spread in China, where it first emerged two years ago, but
has also made the country vulnerable to further economic
disruptions as it scrambles to limit local flare-ups, analysts
Last week, Hong Kong, a major transport hub, announced a
two-week ban on incoming flights from eight countries, including
Britain and the United States.
Travelers, including overseas Chinese trying to get home,
have had to scramble for expensive tickets, if they can find
them at all.
On Wednesday, a search of China's popular Trip.com, showed
almost no direct flights from the United States to China were
available for the rest of January.
For February, Delta's weekly Seattle-Shanghai flight on
Tuesdays was selling for about 40,000 yuan ($6,285).
"Now going back to China is like a Mission Impossible. More
and more flights are being suspended," an annoyed Chinese user
of social media platform Weibo posted on Tuesday.
"Piss off, Omicron. I haven't been back home for two years
($1=6.3647 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Tony Munroe in Beijing and David
Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Christopher Cushingd,
Clarence Fernandez and Jonathan Oatis)