The US Transportation Department's block of Chinese airlines comes after China previously barred inbound flights from US airlines over a Covid-19 restrictions dispute.

The US order limits flights between January 30 and March 29 by four Chinese airlines.
The US order limits flights between January 30 and March 29 by four Chinese airlines. (AP)

The United States has moved to block 44 flights to the US by Chinese airlines in retaliation for China forcing the cancellation of flights by US airlines.

The Transportation Department order affecting four Chinese airlines on Friday is the latest development in a long-running dispute over Covid-19 restrictions.

The department said that China’s move to block flights by US carriers was “adverse to the public interest and warrant proportionate remedial action by the department.”

China previously barred some inbound flights by Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines after passengers on earlier flights tested positive for the virus.

The US maintains that China’s actions violated a treaty over access to each country by the other country’s airlines.

The department said that China's regulations are unfair because passengers who test negative for the virus before their flight but positive up to seven days later can result in future flights being canceled.

READ MORE: US warns of 'appropriate' response as China cancels flights over Covid

Long dispute

The US order limits flights between January 30 and March 29 by Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

The dispute over flights goes back to 2020 and the early days of the pandemic.

In 2020, the Trump administration backed down from a threat to block four Chinese airlines after China agreed to let United and Delta operate a limited number of flights.

The spat flared again in August 2021, when the US Transportation Department limited the number of passengers on some Chinese flights to the US after China imposed similar limits on United.

In December, Delta blamed new Chinese restrictions when a plane bound for Shanghai returned to Seattle.

READ MORE: US suspends flights by Chinese airlines starting June 16

Source: TRTWorld and agencies