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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

American, United stop flying to Hong Kong amid crew testing requirements

United Airlines and American Airlines have temporarily halted flights to Hong Kong after its government imposed coronavirus testing requirements for airline crews, the latest twist in a simmering scuffle between the U.S. and China over access to aviation markets.

The details: Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has said that as of Wednesday, incoming crews will be subject to the collection of “deep throat saliva specimens,” and any person refusing to be tested will be subject to a fine and imprisonment. If a crew member tests positive, “hospital admission will be arranged as soon as possible.”

American is halting flights to Hong Kong until Aug. 5 because of the requirements, according to an email the leadership of the Allied Pilots Association union sent to its membership.

In a statement, United said a flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong that had been scheduled for Wednesday was canceled because of “recent changes in testing protocol” at Hong Kong International Airport. It added that “United flights to and from HKG are suspended through July 10 westbound and their corresponding returns. We are currently assessing how this impacts our future operations.”

Earlier this week, United said it planned to resume service between Chicago and Hong Kong starting in September.

The context: The latest issue comes as tensions between the U.S. Department of Transportation and China were beginning to thaw. The two governments had been fighting over airlines’ access to each other’s commercial markets.

A DOT spokesperson said the department is monitoring the Hong Kong situation.

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