WASHINGTON • The United States government has accused the Chinese government of making it impossible for US airlines to resume service to China, and ordered four Chinese air carriers to file flight schedules with the US government.
US President Donald Trump's administration stopped short of imposing restrictions on Chinese air carriers, but said talks with China had failed to produce an agreement.
The US Transportation Department, which is trying to persuade China to allow the resumption of US passenger airline services there, last week briefly delayed a few Chinese charter flights for not complying with notice requirements.
In an order posted on a US government website and seen by Reuters on Friday, the department said Delta Air Lines and United Airlines want to resume flights to China next month. Chinese carriers have continued their US flights during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The order said Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and their subsidiaries must file schedules and other details of flights by Wednesday. The department warned it could find that the Chinese flights are "contrary to applicable law or adversely affect the public interest".
It said it has protested to the Chinese authorities over the situation, objecting to China's failure to let US carriers fully exercise their rights and to the denial to US carriers of their right to compete on a fair and equal basis with Chinese carriers.
On Jan 31, the US government barred from entry most non-US citizens who had been in China within the previous 14 days, but did not impose restrictions on Chinese flights.
Major US carriers voluntarily decided to halt all passenger flights to China in February.
Delta and United have been making cargo flights to China. Delta had requested approval for daily flights to Shanghai Pudong airport from Detroit and Seattle; United had asked to fly daily to Shanghai Pudong from San Francisco and Newark airports, and between San Francisco and Beijing.
Weekly scheduled flights between the two countries by US and Chinese carriers fell from 325 in January to 20 - by just the four Chinese carriers - in mid-February, before the carriers increased the flights to 34 in mid-March, the US order said.
The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) in late March said Chinese airlines could maintain one weekly passenger flight on one route to any given country, and carriers could fly no more than the number of flights they were flying on March 12, according to the US order.
But because US passenger airlines had stopped all flights before March 12, the CAAC notice "effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to China", the department said.
CAAC told the US government during a May 14 call that China is considering removing the March 12 schedule precondition, but the "restriction to once-weekly service on one route to China would remain in place", the order said.