Delta says flight to Shanghai turned back because of new Covid rules

Delta Air Lines said Monday that new pandemic cleaning requirements at a Shanghai airport were in the air behind the departure of a recent flight from Seattle, a move that sparked a protest from the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

A statement sent via email said the new mandates at Shanghai Pudong International Airport “require significantly increased ground times and are inoperable for Delta”.

It wasn’t clear what the rules are and what caused the change, but it comes as China tightened its already strict Covid-19 travel restrictions amid a growing outbreak in Xi’an city and ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in six Weeks.

Xi’an, which is about 600 miles southwest of Beijing, reported more than 300 new cases over the weekend, a sharp increase from the previous day. The city of 13 million people has been closed and only one person per household is allowed to buy the bare minimum every two days.

The Delta flight, which returned to Seattle last week, left passengers with expired Covid-19 test results and US visas, according to Chinese media reports.

Two Taiwanese airlines, China Airlines and EVA Air, have both reduced flights to Shanghai Pudong International Airport in recent days, citing new disinfection procedures that will take longer to complete, according to Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency.

EVA is suspending flights from two cities to Shanghai until February 3rd. China Airlines is suspending flights from one city to Shanghai until the end of January and is reducing the number of flights on another route.

The consulate in San Francisco did not give Delta a name, but said in a brief statement on Sunday that many flights from the United States to China had been delayed or canceled in recent days, including one that was more than halfway to its destination has returned.

The consulate had “given the airline a strict signal,” the statement said.

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