US to Allow Two Chinese Passenger Flights Per Week
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Friday that Chinese airlines would be limited to just two weekly roundtrip flights between Chinese and American soil until further notice.
Two days earlier, the Trump administration had issued a decision to suspend all passenger flights between the U.S. and China starting on June 16.
The latest directive is less restrictive, but will still affect millions of travelers, including foreign students, business officials, and tourists who rely on direct flights to get between the two countries.
“The Department’s overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights,” said the DOT order.
It comes after months of tit-for-tat retaliation between Trump and Beijing, who have accused one another of failing to adequately respond to the coronavirus crisis, allowing the virus to spread to other countries.
The U.S.-China Business Council, an organization that promotes trade between the two countries, condemned the Trump administration’s decision on Monday, calling on the countries to put an end to the dispute.
“Commercial air travel provides a vital bridge between the U.S. and China.” said Doug Barry, a spokesperson for USCBC, in an email to The Well News. “This travel is especially important during times of conflict, suspicion and misunderstanding. We call on the governments of both countries to get the airplanes flying again—in both directions without arbitrary restrictions as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The Trump administration has been feuding with Beijing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which epidemiologists say likely emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Trump has accused China of covering up the outbreak and allowing it to spread to the rest of the world, repeatedly inflaming Chinese officials by referring to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
In March, as China’s outbreak was winding down and COVID-19 cases were ramping up in the U.S., Beijiing announced that foreign airlines would be limited to one flight per week to China to avoid a second wave of infections in the country. The move effectively banned nearly all international travelers from entering China.
Previously, the U.S. had suspended all flights from Chinese airlines and banned most travelers from China as health officials were sounding the alarm that the coronavirus was quickly spreading throughout America.
According to research by Oxford Economics, travel restrictions related to COVID-19 could cost the U.S. more than $10 billion in Chinese visitor spending in 2020. Each Chinese tourist spends an average of $6,000 per trip to the U.S., excluding money spent on airfare and educational costs, according to the research firm.
In 2019, Chinese tourists spent roughly $33 billion in the U.S. with a total of around 2.8 million visits, a 6% decline from the previous year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The number of Chinese tourists who visit America each year has steadily declined over the last few years due to an ongoing trade war between the two countries.
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