The Civil Aviation Administration of China on Thursday moved to relax international flight restrictions, allowing more foreign carriers to resume flights to China on a once-a-week basis starting from June 8. It means the situation, in which US airlines have zero flights to and from China, could end, and US airlines could enjoy the same rights as airlines from other countries.
The new regulation also sets up a reward and suspension mechanism. Carriers that do not carry any passengers who test positive for the novel coronavirus on flights to China for three consecutive weeks will be allowed to have two flights to China every week.
However, if the number of passengers testing positive reaches five, that airline‘s flights to China will be suspended for a week. If the number reaches 10, operations will be suspended for four weeks.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Transportation said that it was suspending the scheduled flights of all Chinese airlines into the US starting June 16.
It seems that China made a concession. But China‘s new regulation applies to all airlines, and the US is not supposed to be treated differently. US airlines hope to fly several times to China a day, and China will not accept that at the current stage.
There is a practical need to resume air passenger transport among countries, including between China and the US. This is an inevitable result of the resumption of work and production. On the other hand, preventing imported COVID-19 cases is important for every country. For China, which has effectively put the domestic epidemic under control and where risks mainly come from the outside, it‘s especially critical to prevent imported cases while increasing international flights.
China‘s current frontline against the pandemic is to ward off imported cases. This is also the basis for the country‘s economic recovery. How can the US make China give up the bottom line by applying pressure? There is absolutely no way for China to loosen epidemic prevention efforts for American companies to profit.
The US took the lead in banning entry of people from China, and banned flights to and from European countries later. Now, it is one of the countries hardest hit by the virus in the world, how could any country open its air routes to the US?
It is believed China and the US will continue communication and reach a consensus on flight issues.
The most important thing for the US now is to contain the epidemic, creating conditions for resuming more flights with other countries.
No one wants to deliberately create difficulties for US airlines, but countries succeeding in the epidemic fight will keep a high vigilance toward flights from the US that may bring many infected cases. The US has to accept this fact.
If US airlines join China‘s new plan of air traffic expansion, whether they can withstand the rules of reward and suspension announced by China, increasing flights from once a week to twice a week, depends entirely on themselves. They need to strictly screen personnel boarding the airplanes, keeping the infected out. This is responsible for not only the safety of all passengers, but also for the airlines‘ interests and reputation.
It is not about politics, but about safety and responsibility. When friction points between China and the US are growing, airlines had better not get involved.
If Washington just wants to politicize everything, let it be. But China will keep its bottom line – ensuring the safety of Chinese people.