The U.S. government said Wednesday it will block Chinese passenger airlines from flying into and from the United States starting June 16 in response to what it considers as China's unfair treatment of U.S. carriers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The dispute centers on a notice issued by Chinese aviation authorities on March 26 which the U.S. Department of Transportation says has effectively precluded U.S. carriers from restarting passenger flights to and from China. Chinese carriers, however, have been able to maintain their services to and from the United States.

Air transportation demand between the two countries fell off following the coronavirus outbreak that was first detected in China and then spread worldwide. By mid-March, three U.S. carriers -- American Airlines Inc., Delta Airlines Inc. and United Airlines Inc. -- had completely ceased passenger flights to and from China.

An Air China airplane pictured in November 2018. (Getty/Kyodo)


United and Delta have said they intend to resume services and submitted applications to the Chinese authorities at the beginning of May, but their plans have not won approval, according to the U.S. transport department.

"In light of these facts, which present a situation in which the Chinese aviation authorities have authorized no U.S. carrier scheduled passenger operations between the United States and China, we conclude that these circumstances require the department's action to restore a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity among U.S. and Chinese air carriers," the department said.

"We, therefore, conclude that the public interest requires the suspension of all Chinese carrier scheduled passenger air services between the United States and China," it added.

The order will affect the services of Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp., China Southern Airlines Co. and Xiamen Airlines.

The department also said its goal is "not the perpetuation of this situation" and that it is "fully prepared to revisit the action" should China adjust its policies.

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