(CN) — The Trump administration on Wednesday announced a ban on commercial passenger flights by Chinese carriers to the U.S., effective June 16, in a move meant to penalize Beijing for not allowing American airlines to resume scheduled flights to China.
Responding to the Asian superpower’s decision to bar American carriers from resuming regular service to China following coronavirus-related restrictions, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it is suspending the scheduled passenger operations of all Chinese carriers to and from the United States.
“China has failed to permit U.S. carriers to exercise their bilateral rights to conduct passenger air service to China. The Chinese government’s failure to approve their requests is a violation of our Air Transport Agreement,” the department said on Twitter.
Aviation relations between the U.S. and China are governed by the U.S.-China Civil Air Transport Agreement, which establishes rights for “the carriers of both parties to provide certain air services between the two countries.”
The three main U.S. carriers that operate passenger flights between the United States and China are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
Beginning in February, these companies drastically limited their scheduled U.S.-China services as countries worldwide cracked down on foreign air travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
During that time, Chinese carriers also suspended some of their U.S.-China services, but not as many as the American companies had. By March 12, according to the Transportation Department, U.S. airlines had completely stopped flying passenger service to and from China.
“However, Chinese carriers generally maintained a degree of passenger service during that timeframe,” the announcement states.
The Civil Aviation Authority of China issued a notice on further reducing passenger flights on March 26, limiting Chinese airlines to just one weekly scheduled passenger flight on one route to any given country and putting the same restrictions on foreign airlines flying into China. Beijing stipulated that flight schedules from March 12 should serve as a maximum limit.
“The CAAC notice effectively precludes U.S. carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to and from China and operating to the full extent of their bilateral rights, while Chinese carriers are able to maintain scheduled passenger service to and from each foreign market served as of the baseline date, including the United States,” the Transportation Department wrote.
The U.S. government stated that the goal of the order is not to aggravate tensions, but rather to create “an improved environment wherein carriers of both parties will be able to fully exercise their bilateral rights.”
The order, which does not apply to cargo flights, impacts seven different Chinese carriers, including China Eastern Airlines and Air China.
At President Donald Trump’s discretion, the ban could be implemented sooner than June 16.