The U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) will limit passenger capacity on a small number of select flights between China and the United States after the Chinese authorities imposed a similar punishment on United Airlines earlier this month.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration told United Airlines that five passengers on a United flight from San Francisco to Shanghai had tested positive for COVID-19 after an August 6 flight.
Under the terms of a ‘circuit breaker’ policy that punishes airlines for carrying Covid-positive passengers, China told United that it would have to select one of four punishments. United opted for the fourth option that meant it would have to operate four inbound flights over a four week period (PVG – SFO) with just 40 per cent passenger capacity.
But the DOT says it has repeatedly objected to the “unilaterally imposed” circuit breaker provisions, arguing that it places “undue culpability” on carriers who are held responsible for passengers testing positive after they’ve arrived in China.
Chinese authorities independently verify test results of all passengers before travel but there is no way for airlines to verify positive test results once the passenger is in China. “Furthermore, there is no way to establish where or when a traveler may have contracted COVID-19,” the DOT said in a statement.
The “proportionate remedial action” ordered by the DOT is to limit capacity on a small number of flights operated by Chinese carriers to the United States to just 40 per cent capacity as well.
One flight each will be impacted on the following airlines and routes: Air China (Beijing to Los Angeles), China Eastern (Shanghai – New York JFK), China Southern (Guangzhou – Los Angeles), Xiamen Airlines (Xiamen – Los Angeles).
In a statement, a spokesperson for United Airlines said it was “pleased to see this action by the (Transportation Department) in pursuit of fairness in this important market.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.