- China's aviation authority said Thursday it would allow all foreign airlines to choose from a list of approved cities to operate one international passenger flight a week beginning June 8.
- The online statement came about 12 hours after the U.S. Trump administration issued an order to suspend Chinese passenger airlines from flying to the U.S. beginning June 16, with the option to take effect earlier.
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China did not directly refer to the U.S. actions in its statement.
China's aviation authority said Thursday that it would allow foreign airlines to increase flights between the country and other regions from June 8.
The online statement came about 12 hours after President Donald Trump's administration issued an order to suspend Chinese passenger airlines from flying to the U.S. beginning June 16, with the option to take effect earlier.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China did not directly refer to the U.S. actions in its statement. The new Chinese policy would allow all foreign airlines to choose from a list of approved cities to operate one international passenger flight a week.
If a flight's passengers test negative for the virus for three consecutive weeks, the airline will be able to add one additional fight per week, the aviation authority said. If five or more passengers test positive for the virus, the airline must suspend the flight for a week, according to the statement.
Flights to China that operate just once a week pose challenges because of the associated costs, such as accommodating crews, two U.S. airline officials told CNBC.
A Delta spokeswoman said the carrier was reviewing the order, declining further comment. United did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Department of Transportation didn't immediately comment.
China's aviation authority did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment about the U.S. order. But in a notice on Thursday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China named 37 port cities in the country that foreign airlines can fly to and from. They included major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
All four airlines were mentioned in the U.S. Department of Transportation order that called for the suspension of their flights to the U.S. Other entities mentioned included Xiamen Airlines and Sichuan Airlines.
Global aviation traffic has plunged in the last several months as governments imposed lockdowns and stay-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Officially called Covid-19, the disease first emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since infected more than 6.4 million people worldwide and killed over 385,000.
By March 12, U.S. airlines had stopped passenger services to and from China, while Chinese carriers maintained some flights, the U.S. order said. The document added that at the beginning of May, U.S. carriers United Airlines and Delta had applied to China's aviation authority to resume flights to the country in early June, but did not receive approval.
The order made it clear that the U.S. would not approve Chinese charter flights that have become an increasingly common way for Chinese nationals to return to their home country.
— CNBC's Leslie Josephs and Iris Wang contributed to this report.