As tensions continue to escalate between the United States and China, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has accused the Chinese government of barring US airlines from resuming operations there. It has also ordered four Chinese carriers to file detailed schedules with the US government.

The docket served on May 22 accuses Beijing of a “failure [...] to permit US carriers to exercise the full extent of their bilateral right to conduct scheduled passenger air services to China.”

The DOT stopped short of placing restrictions on Chinese airlines but demanded that Air China, Capital Airlines (China), China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines file by May 27 all of their existing and proposed schedules, including codeshares, to any point or points in the United States. This must include the type of equipment, frequencies, days of operation, the airport served at each point, and arrival and departure times.

It warned that the operation of the services contained in these schedules “may be contrary to applicable law or adversely affect the public interest.”

The order referred to a CAAC notice issued on March 26, which stated that on resuming services to China foreign airlines should maintain just 1x weekly scheduled passenger flight on one route to China - a restriction China has insisted will remain in place.

The CAAC notice also gave March 12 for Chinese and foreign carriers to use as a seemingly arbitrary benchmark as a maximum limit for the capacity of their international schedules, in terms of frequency of passenger service, that they are permitted to maintain until further notice.

While Chinese airlines have continued flights to the USA, US carriers had stopped theirs by March 12. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines now plan to resume flights to China in June, the order noted, but “neither carrier has received a response” from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The department stressed in another statement that it had “protested this situation to the Chinese authorities, repeatedly objecting to China’s failure to let US carriers fully exercise their rights, [denying] US carriers their right to compete on a fair and equal basis with Chinese carriers,” adding that the situation was “critical.”

Delta and United currently operate cargo flights to China. Delta has requested approval for a daily flight to Shanghai Pudong from Detroit Metropolitan and Seattle Tacoma Int'l, while United has asked to fly daily from New York Newark and San Francisco, CA to Shanghai, and from San Francisco to Beijing Capital.