The United States could lose all flights to China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics

Beginning Jan. 19 and lasting for at least two weeks, all flights from the United States to China have been canceled or potentially suspended due to Chinese aviation regulations, according to CNN Business research of government announcements and flight schedules. As of Friday, only two United Airlines (UAL) It appears that flights are still eligible to operate for that period.

The Winter Games in Beijing begin on February 4, and participants mostly take private trips limited to people with OIympics credentials as part of a strict bubble enforced by authorities around the event.

Since June, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration has applied the so-called “circuit breaker” rule to international flights. This rule means that a flight is automatically suspended for two weeks if five or more passengers are tested positive upon landing in China. If 10 or more passengers test positive, the suspension period is increased.

From December 24 to January 12, more than a third of 9,356 international flights scheduled to leave for China were canceled – already a fraction of pre-pandemic levels – according to data from Umetrip, an app developed by China’s state-owned airline industry and IT provider TravelSky. .

During this period, an increasing number of passengers on flights from the United States – operated by both US and Chinese airlines – tested positive on arrival in China, leading to a wave of cancellations ahead of the Olympics and Lunar New Year, the most important of which is a holiday in China.

Three American airlines – United (UAL)And Delta (From) And American Airlines (AAL) Operating 10 weekly flights to Shanghai, China’s largest city, as a steady rise in COVID-19 cases among international arrivals has put local officials under mounting pressure to tighten containment measures. On Thursday, the city recorded five new cases, all linked to a resident who recently returned from the United States.

“US airlines are concerned about the implications of the disruption and continue to assess the impact on operations,” American Airlines, a Washington-based trade group that represents major US airlines, said in a statement Thursday. “We are in contact with the US and Chinese governments to determine a path forward that minimizes the impact on travelers.”

CNN Business has sought comment from the US Department of Transportation, which has the authority to suspend eight weekly US flights operated by four Chinese airlines.

China largely closed its borders in March 2020 and continues to stick to its strict policy of no coronavirus spread. Flights to and from China – the world’s second largest market for air travel after the US – have been drastically reduced, even as international travel begins to pick up in other parts of the world.
Last month, a Delta flight from Seattle to Shanghai turned around in mid-air due to a change in cleaning procedures at the Chinese airport “which significantly extended ground time and is not operationally viable,” according to the airline. Chinese officials opposed the account, urging the carrier to “protect the legitimate rights of customers.”

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