The US Department of Transport (DOT) has backed down from an earlier ban on Chinese carriers, allowing them to fly up to four weekly flights between Mainland China and the USA. 

The move comes after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) eased international flight restrictions further on 8 June, allowing more carriers — including those from the USA — to operate flights into the country. 

A DOT notice on 15 June says it was notified that US carriers have been approved to fly four weekly flights to Mainland China, and will reciprocate by allowing Chinese airlines to fly four weekly flights between the two countries. 

“We welcome this action by the Chinese government, as an important first step to fully restore air travel,” it states. 

The DOT adds that it will “continue to press for the full restoration of passenger air travel between the United States and China, in part to allow for the repatriation of Chinese students who have been unable to fly home due to the shortage of flights”. 

The department first annnounced the ban — to have kicked in on 16 June — in retaliation for a Chinese order that US officials say effectively prohibits US airlines from resuming China flights.

In May, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines applied to the CAAC for authority to resume numerous passenger flights between the countries, after suspending their routes due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the CAAC denied their requests.

China restricted the number of international flights into the country in March, in a bid to stem the number of imported coronavirus cases. Its order in March also also prohibited carriers from adding more capacity than they had in schedules on 12 March – a date on which US airlines had no China flights.