U.S. rejects Chinese airlines' request for additional flights

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wear protective face masks at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on an unusually empty Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday rejected a request by Chinese airlines for additional weekly flights between the two countries, but said the decision was not meant to escalate tensions over travel restrictions.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Transportation said the decision was made to “maintain the parity” in scheduled passenger services between the two countries, adding it was willing to review the decision if Chinese aviation authorities adjusted their policies affecting U.S. carriers.

“The Department has conveyed to our Chinese counterparts that this order is a procedural matter only and that it should not be viewed as an escalation on our part,” the Transportation Department statement said.

Earlier this week, the United States and China said they would each allow four weekly flights between the two countries.

The Transportation Department said on Monday in its revised order on China flights that the U.S. government still hoped China will agree to restore full U.S. flight rights under their bilateral aviation agreement.

The United States had threatened to bar Chinese passenger flights on June 16 due to Beijing’s curbs on U.S. airlines amid simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies, and has raised concerns about the number of charter flights Chinese carriers want to fly.

Among U.S. airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines had each sought to restart daily passenger flights to China in June but changed their plans in the absence of government approval.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Tom Brown