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China Steps Back in Airline Dispute With the Trump Administration

  • June 04, 2020

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the announcement from China’s aviation regulator on Thursday would resolve the dispute.

Delta said in a statement that it still hoped to restart flights to China as soon as next week, pending approval, and that the airline appreciated the federal government’s intervention. United said it would fly to China “when the regulatory environment allows us to do so.”

More than 8.5 million passengers traveled on direct flights between the United States and China in 2018, the last year for which the Transportation Department has complete data. United flew about 17 percent of those passengers, second only to Air China’s more than 19 percent. Delta ranked fifth, behind China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, carrying just over 10 percent of passengers.

Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the United States should seek to form a coalition with other countries to demand that China treat foreign airlines fairly. That would also be in the interest of Chinese airlines, which stand to lose access to major international markets if Beijing does not change its policies.

“As long as U.S. airlines and passengers are willing to abide by whatever testing and quarantine rules Chinese airlines and their passengers are following, there is no reason why Chinese airlines should be able to fly in and out of the United States, while U.S. airlines cannot do the same,” Ms. Economy said.

The dispute comes as the Trump administration introduces several new restrictions on companies doing business with China, citing human rights and security considerations.

In mid-May, the Trump administration expanded restrictions on Huawei, the Chinese telecom firm, and blocked a U.S. government pension fund from investing in China. On May 22, it added more than 30 Chinese companies and institutions to a blacklist that restricts their access to American technology. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that those new restrictions would take effect on Friday.

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