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(CNN Business) --
(CNN Business) --
People trying to fly from the United States to China may soon face an unthinkable scenario: Starting next week, there will likely be no commercial flights to China as Beijing tries to stave off infections. by coronavirus before the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Beginning January 19 and for at least two weeks, all US flights to China will be canceled or likely to be suspended due to Chinese aviation regulations, according to CNN Business' investigation of government announcements and flight schedules. published.
As of Friday, only two United Airlines flights still appeared eligible to operate during that period.
The Beijing Winter Olympics open on February 4, with most participants taking special flights restricted to people with Olympic credentials as part of a strict bubble authorities are putting in place around the event.
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China's regulations for canceling flights
Since June, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has applied the so-called "circuit breaker" rule to international flights.
That rule means a flight is automatically grounded for two weeks if five or more passengers test positive upon landing in China.
If 10 or more passengers test positive, the suspension period increases.
China defended its "circuit breaker" regulations as "an important step in reducing the risk of cross-border spread of the epidemic."
"The measures, which are open and fair, apply equally to Chinese and foreign airlines," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in August.
"For the airlines that do not meet the conditions to activate the circuit breaker, China has never applied relevant measures to them."
From December 24 to January 12, more than a third of the 9,356 international flights scheduled to depart for China — and at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels — were cancelled, according to data from Umetrip, an app developed by the travel provider. Chinese state technology services TravelSky.
During this period, a growing number of passengers on flights from the United States, operated by US and Chinese airlines, tested positive upon arrival in China, prompting a wave of cancellations just before the Olympics and Lunar New Year, the holiday most important in China.
Three US carriers -- United, Delta and American Airlines -- operate 10 flights a week to Shanghai, China's largest city, where a steady rise in Covid cases among international arrivals has put local officials under increasing pressure to strengthen containment measures.
The city on Thursday recorded five new locally transmitted cases, all linked to a resident who had recently returned from the United States.
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"US airlines are concerned about the implications of an outage and continue to assess the impact on operations," Airlines for America, a Washington-based trade group representing major US carriers, said in a statement Thursday.
"We are in communication with the governments of the United States and China to identify a way forward that minimizes the impact for travelers."
CNN Business has sought comment from the US Department of Transportation, which has the authority to suspend the eight weekly US flights operated by four Chinese airlines.
China largely closed its borders in March 2020 and has continued to stick to its strict zero covid policy.
Flights to and from China, the world's second-biggest air travel market after the United States, have dropped sharply, even as international travel has started to pick up in other parts of the world.
Last month, a Delta flight from Seattle to Shanghai had to make a turnaround in the air due to a change in cleaning procedures at the Chinese airport that "significantly prolonged ground time and is not operationally feasible," according to the statement. airline.
Chinese officials questioned the account, urging the operator to "protect the legitimate rights of customers."
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