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China Forces Delta To Temporarily Suspend Shanghai Flights

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The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has ordered Delta Air Lines to temporarily cease two routes to China due to a CAAC rule regarding passengers who test positive for COVID-19.

Delta verified to Routes late on January 10 that its weekly Detroit (DTW)-Seoul (ICN)-Shanghai (PVG) route was not operational last week and will not be operational this week. The CAAC announced on Jan. 11 that two more flights on the route will be suspended, implying that Delta will not be able to restore service until February.

The CAAC also stated that Delta’s weekly Seattle (SEA)-ICN-PVG service will be temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 rule. Delta uses ICN to fly to PVG, avoiding the need for pilots to spend the night in China and be subject to the country’s quarantine rules.

The CAAC claimed on Jan. 11 that it is forcing the cancellation of more than 60 flights to China from the United States, including flights run by American Carriers and United Airlines, as well as 42 flights operated by Chinese airlines. Between DTW and SEA, ten Delta flights have been canceled.

The cancellations are the result of a 2020 CAAC rule that demands a two-week suspension of a route if 5-9 arriving passengers test positive for COVID-19 “after arrival,” or four weeks if more than 10 passengers test positive. Flights between the United States and China must likewise be limited to a 75% load factor.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has previously stated that the CAAC rule places “undue culpability” on airlines that follow protocol prior to departure to China—when all passengers must submit negative COVID-19 tests—and have no way of verifying the Chinese government’s claims of positive tests or when passengers may have contracted COVID-19.

The DTW-ICN-PVG route was halted after seven passengers on a Dec. 27 Airbus A350 Delta flight tested positive for COVID-19 within eight days of landing in Shanghai, indicating that some or all of those passengers got COVID-19 while in China.

Delta has filed an appeal with the CAAC, requesting that any punitive action be postponed until a later date so that it can rebook passengers.

When a route resumes, the airline would like China to relax the 75 percent load factor limit, allowing it to rebook more customers from canceled flights.

The Department of Transportation has yet to comment on the recent flight cancellations.

“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their travels due to government requirements and will work as quickly as possible to rebook customers on alternate flights,” Delta said in a statement.

Meanwhile, according to OAG data, Delta has canceled nonstop flights from DTW and SEA to Beijing Daxing (PKX) and PVG, which were scheduled to begin in April.

The flights, which would eliminate the ICN stopover for PVG passengers and add service to PKX, will now begin in October.

It’s unclear whether the scheduling change was prompted by the COVID-19 rule’s recent changes.


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