US airlines say that China has blocked more than a dozen recent and future flights from entering the country, which has been tightening COVID-19 travel restrictions.
China ordered the cancelations after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on flights that arrived in China late last month, industry officials said.
American Airlines Group Inc on Tuesday said that six of its flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Shanghai late this month and early next month have been canceled.
United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was forced to cancel six flights from San Francisco to Shanghai later this month.
Delta Air Lines Inc said it canceled one flight last week and another tomorrow to Shanghai.
Airlines for America, which represents the largest US passenger and cargo carriers, said it was discussing the matter with US and Chinese government officials to find ways to minimize the impact on travelers.
The blocking of flights is the latest development in a dispute between the two countries over international flights and rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus.
China has been ratcheting up travel restrictions after recent outbreaks of COVID-19 as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics early next month.
China limits capacity on inbound flights — currently to 75 percent — and requires passengers to be tested before departure and after arriving in the country.
If passengers test positive, the airline that carried them can be forced to cancel two to four flights, depending on the number of positive cases.
Last month, Delta said that new requirements for cleaning planes between flights caused a plane bound for Shanghai to return to Seattle.
The airline said that the new rules extended the time planes would need to sit on the ground in Shanghai, and were not workable.
The Chinese consulate in San Francisco lodged a protest over Delta’s decision.
In August last year, the US Department of Transportation limited the number of passengers on four Chinese airlines’ flights to the US after China imposed similar limits on United Airlines.
The US said that China was putting an unreasonable burden on US airlines for travelers who test positive after arriving in China.
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