China to allow more foreign flights after U.S. bans Chinese carriers

At the airport Rostock-Laage there are new Airbus aircraft of the type A320, which have been produced for the Chinese market but cannot be delivered at present due to the corona crisis. Nine aircraft are already on the runway, 15 are to be delivered. Regular flight operations at the airport have been suspended.

Bernd Wustneck | picture alliance | Getty Images

China’s aviation authority said Thursday that it would allow foreign airlines to increase flights between the country and other regions from June 8.

The online statement came about 12 hours after President Donald Trump’s administration issued an order to suspend Chinese passenger airlines from flying to the U.S. beginning June 16, with the option to take effect earlier.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China did not directly refer to the U.S. actions in its statement. The new Chinese policy would allow all foreign airlines to choose from a list of approved cities to operate one international passenger flight a week. 

If a flight’s passengers test negative for the virus for three consecutive weeks, the airline will be able to add one additional fight per week, the aviation authority said. If five or more passengers test positive for the virus, the airline must suspend the flight for a week, according to the statement.

China’s aviation authority did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment about the U.S. order.

Shares of Air China and Hainan Airlines fell nearly 2% in morning trading on the mainland, while China Southern shares traded 0.4% lower. However, China Eastern shares rose about half a percent. 

All four airlines were mentioned in the U.S. Department of Transportation order that called for the suspension of their flights to the U.S. Other entities mentioned included Xiamen Airlines and Sichuan Airlines.

Global aviation traffic has plunged in the last several months as governments imposed lockdowns and stay-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Officially called Covid-19, the disease first emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since infected more than 6.4 million people worldwide and killed over 385,000.

By March 12, U.S. airlines had stopped passenger services to and from China, while Chinese carriers maintained some flights, the U.S. order said. The document added that at the beginning of May, U.S. carriers United Airlines and Delta had applied to China’s aviation authority to resume flights to the country in early June, but did not receive approval.

The order made it clear that the U.S. would not approve Chinese charter flights that have become an increasingly common way for Chinese nationals to return to their home country.

— CNBC’s Iris Wang contributed to this report.

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