China plans to allow chartered flights from eight countries as it loosens restrictions on inbound travel imposed for the coronavirus pandemic, though the U.S. won’t be included amid growing tensions between the two nations, people familiar with the matter said.
Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Germany, the U.K., Italy, France and Switzerland will be allowed to schedule charter flights into China, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public. They didn’t say how many of the flights will be permitted.
For the past two months, China has allowed international airlines to fly in only once a week under the “Five-One” policy, which also limits the external flights of domestic carriers. Beyond cargo services, U.S. airlines had already stopped flying to China by the time the policy was introduced, as had the likes of British Airways PLC and Lufthansa AG.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. CAAC is allowing domestic and foreign airlines to apply for “green channels” for chartered flights to China, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The U.S. Transportation Department last week accused Beijing of blocking American carriers from resuming service, saying China violated a bilateral agreement by failing to respond to requests for passenger flights by Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. The DOT ordered Chinese airlines to provide information on their U.S. schedules and any proposed changes.
The virus led to drastic cutbacks in flights around the world and forced some carriers into bankruptcy as countries imposed travel bans and border curbs. China has been rebuilding domestic capacity as the outbreak eased within its own borders, and now accounts for more than a third of global seat capacity, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd. As much as 98 percent of that is for flights within China, OAG said, as restrictions continue to disrupt international travel.
The pandemic count stands at more than 5.6 million confirmed cases and over 350,000 deaths. Fatalities in the United States alone topped 100,000. Infections in China officially total 84,103 with 4,638 deaths.