BEIJING, 23 August 2021: China and the US are playing
tit-for-tat on passenger capacity on flights between the two countries that is
now limited to 40% of the sellable seats during August.

First China imposed a limit on United Airlines’ four weekly flights serving China. Then late last week, the US declared it would reduce the sellable seat capacity of four Chinese airlines to 40%. China’s Foreign Ministry said the move would hit the four Chinese airlines badly during the period they would normally operate full flights packed with Chinese students returning to the US for the autumn school or university semesters.

The US Transportation Department’s limit on passenger
capacity will be in force for four weeks.

First reported by Reuters, the US rule limits the passenger
uplift capacity to 40% on direct flights from China. It impacts four Chinese
carriers; Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and
Xiamen Airlines.

According to Reuters, on 6 August, China told United
Airlines it was facing limits after five passengers who travelled from San
Francisco to Shanghai tested positive for COVID-19 on flight UA857, which
landed in Shanghai on 22 July.

United Airlines was given three options: Cancel two San
Francisco to Shanghai flights, operate two scheduled passenger flights as cargo
flights, or operate four flights with up to 40% of passenger capacity for four
weeks. The company chose the third option.

The 40%  capacity
limit will force Chinese airlines to refund many passengers for existing
bookings or offer a routing that goes via Hong Kong with a change of flight
numbers and aircraft.