The Trump administration says it will block Chinese passenger airlines from travelling to the United States starting on 16 June.
The move, made by the US Department of Transportation, reportedly was in response to Beijing refusing to allow US air carriers to resume flights to the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the department now putting pressure back on China.
"Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights," the Transportation Department's order on Wednesday read. "Should the [Chinese aviation authority] adjust its policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for US carriers, the Department is fully prepared to revisit the action it has announced in this order."
The order would take effect on 16 June and apply to Air China, Hainan Airlines Holding Co., China Eastern Airlines Corp., and China Southern Airlines Co.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have pushed for China to be allowed to resume more flights operating between the country and the US.
The airlines paused services in March amid the pandemic but now await approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of China to return. Currently, the aviation authority only allows airlines to operate the same number of flights that were operated on 12 March, which was when both airlines had no flights going into the country.
"[China] effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to China," the Transportation Department said.
“We support and appreciate the US government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness,” Delta said in a statement. United has yet to comment.
In late March, China allowed its own carriers to maintain just one weekly flight to any given country. Both Delta and United have asked to also be allowed limited flights as transportation increases.
The State Department has said it "protested this situation to the Chinese authorities, repeatedly objecting to China's failure to let US carriers fully exercise their rights and to the denial to US carriers of their right to compete on a fair and equal basis with Chinese carriers."
China "remains unable" to say when it will revise rules "to allow US carriers to reinstate scheduled passenger flights," the Transportation Department said.