Donald Trump and his administration made moves to block Chinese airlines from flying into the United States on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press report. The move appears to be another escalation of the tensions between both nations.
The suspension will begin on June 16, and it comes after China declined to allow United Airlines and Delta Air Lines to resume commercial flights to China this month. The reason the trips were canceled initially is because of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.
According to the U.S. Transportation Department, China is violating an agreement governing flights between both countries. The four Chinese airlines that will be suspended include Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
"The Department will continue to engage our Chinese counterparts so both U.S. and Chinese carriers can fully exercise their bilateral rights," the agency said in a statement. "In the meantime, we will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours."
The formal order signed by the Transportation Department's top aviation official, Joel Szabat, noted that China is not able to say when it will allow U.S. flights to resume, Reuters reported.Pre-coronavirus, roughly 325 passenger flights flew from the U.S. to China each week. Ultimately, the U.S. carriers stopped them entirely. Still, Chinese airlines pushed forward with dozens of trips per week to the U.S. As reported, the move to stop flights represents an effort to pressure China to allow U.S. airlines to start flying passengers there again.
Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna indicated that the company supports the government's efforts to ensure fairness. Meanwhile, United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati said that the carrier looks forward to resuming regular flights between the U.S. and China as soon as it's allowed to do so.
On May 22, Trump's administration accused China of not allowing U.S. carriers to resume their flights, and on that date, it made Chinese airlines file their flight schedules with the U.S. government. In addition to limits on commercial flights, the president's administration warned that there would be crackdowns on chartered trips -- which have helped Chinese students fly home from the U.S. -- as well.
The Transportation Department noted that it believed that the chartered flights were an attempt to circumvent current limits, which gave Chinese airlines a further advantage over U.S. carriers in passenger flights. Both Delta and United continue to fly cargo flights to China.