China said it will ease coronavirus restrictions to allow more foreign carriers to fly to the mainland, shortly after Washington vowed to bar Chinese airlines from flying to the U.S. due to Beijing’s curbs on American airlines.
Qualifying foreign carriers currently barred from operating flights to China will be allowed once-a-week flights into a city of their choosing starting on June 8, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in a statement on Thursday.
The CAAC has slashed international flights since late March to allay concerns over rising coronavirus infections brought by arriving passengers.
A so-called “Five One” policy allows mainland carriers to fly just one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines to operate just one flight a week to a city in China.
Carriers could also fly no more than the number of flights in a weekly schedule approved by the CAAC on March 12.
But because U.S. passenger airlines had stopped all flights by March 12, they have been unable to resume flights to China.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday said it would bar Chinese passenger carriers from flying into America from June 16, pressuring Beijing to let U.S. airlines to resume flights to the country.
The U.S. Department of Transportation could not be immediately reached for comment. The department has said it will reconsider its order against Chinese airlines if the CAAC adjusts its policies affecting U.S. airlines.
The CAAC said all airlines will be allowed to increase the number of international flights involving China to a maximum of two per week if no passengers on their flights test positive for COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks.
If five passengers or more on one flight test positive for the coronavirus upon arrival, the CAAC would bar the airline from services for a week, it said. Airlines would be suspended for four weeks if 10 passengers or more test positive.
CAAC’s deputy director Li Jian said in May the agency would consider increasing international flights, after public criticisms of its “Five One” policy, which has led to exorbitant ticket prices for many Chinese stranded overseas.
China has also suspended the entry of foreigners with valid Chinese visas or residence permits since late March, meaning only Chinese nationals can travel back to the country on commercial passenger flights.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu, Huizhong Wu and Lusha Zhang; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Tom Hogue, Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.)