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Air carriers struggle to launch China routes amid strengthened landing criteria

Korean air carriers that have been gradually starting to resume their international routes amid slower spread of COVID-19 are facing hurdles to operating China routes over authorities’ strengthened landing conditions, according to industry sources on Friday. 

According to full service carrier Korean Air, it had planned to operate 32 out of 110 international routes from June. Those routes include flights to Chinese destinations Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao, flying three to four times a week. 

Another full service carrier, Asiana Airlines also announced it would run Chinese routes to Qingdao, Harbin, Guangzhou, Xian and Weihai from two to four times a week from June. 

But Chinese aviation authorities sent a notification letter to foreign air carriers on Thursday saying that air carriers will be allowed to expand the number of weekly flights to China only when the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 of passengers inside the plane is at zero for three consecutive weeks. 

If the confirmed cases among passengers exceed five, the operation of air carriers to China will be suspended for a week. If the number marks above 10, the operation will be suspended for a month. 

Chinese authorities said that the regulation is to take effect from Monday.
This has led the Korean air carriers to review their plans on the operations of China routes. 

“It is inevitable to change our plan (on flights to China) due to the regulation set out by the Chinese authorities,” said an industry insider. 

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines currently operate once-a-week flights to the Chinese cities of Shenyang and Changchun, respectively.

By Kim Da-sol (