US suspends 44 flights to China in retaliation for health restrictions imposed by Beijing

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The United States announces the suspension of 44 flights to China by Chinese companies, starting January 30. A decision that follows the suspension by China of American flights, due to Covid infections.

With our correspondent in Beijing, Stephane Lagarde

As a sort of circuit breaker for air links to and from destinations at Covid risk, since the spring of 2020 China has applied the so-called “circuit breaker” strategy, with a simple rule: if five positive cases are reported on a flight, the carrier will no longer be able to provide a connection to China for two weeks. If it is more than ten cases, the suspension increases to four weeks. It is in the name of this principle that the Chinese civil aviation authorities suspended 20 flights from United Airlines, 10 from American Airlines and 14 from Delta Airlines at the end of last year.

Very strict sanitary rules

This decision angered Washington, which denounced a ” unilateral action of China with regard to its companies. For the Chinese Embassy in the United States, these American retaliatory measures are considered “ very unreasonable » while the same rule is applied in a « fair, open and transparent to all carriers. Strict sanitary measures which, according to foreign companies, are increasingly difficult to respect with Omicron.

To avoid contamination, Chinese crews are subject to drastic procedures, as evidenced by the images on social networks regularly showing Chinese pilots and flight attendants dragging their suitcases in PPE suits at airports, after having been advised to wear diapers to avoid infection in the toilet.

The same goes for aircraft: a Delta Airlines plane recently had to do U-turn in the sky in order to comply with the cleaning rules imposed by Shanghai International Airport.

Measures that have considerably slow down traffic and skyrockets ticket prices. In order to counter this inflation, expatriates in China are trying to organize charters.

China has virtually closed its borders to travellers, reducing its total number of international flights to 200 per week, or 2% of pre-pandemic levels, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said last September ( CAAC) quoted by the agency Reuters. This same administration estimating the return to normal traffic not before next year.

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