Delta Airlines halts flights to Shanghai over new COVID-19 rules

Delta Air Lines turned back a flight from Seattle to Shanghai, that was already halfway to China, after new pandemic-related cleaning rules at Shanghai Pudong International Airport forced the US carrier abruptly halt service to one of two major airports in Shanghai that handles mostly international flights.

That recent midair reversal reportedly left quite a few Delta Air Lines‘ passengers stranded with expiring COVID-19 tests and visas.

The new Shanghai Pudong International Airport‘s mandates “require significantly extended ground time and are not operationally viable for Delta,” the airline said in a statement issued today.

The second-largest US air carrier didn’t elaborate on what the rule changes were or why it was necessary to call back a flight that had already been in the air for about six hours.

As of now, Delta Air Lines has canceled its Seattle-Shanghai flights through at least Thursday.

The aborted flight was reportedly entering Russian airspace last week when it made a U-turn and headed back towards Seattle. It was due to land in Seoul for a crew change before continuing on to Shanghai.

While a Delta spokesperson said the rule change was made after the flight left Seattle, Chinese media outlets report that Shanghai Pudong officials denied any recent change to entry requirements.

Without naming Delta Air Lines, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco said yesterday that many US flights to China had been delayed or canceled in recent days and claimed it lodged a complaint with the carrier that called back a flight midway.

Taiwanese airline EVA Air has suspended flights from Kaohsiung and Taipei to Shanghai Pudong Airport until February 3, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA).

EVA Air cited new requirements for disinfecting inbound planes more thoroughly, which it said were implemented on Friday. The new rules would cause return flights to Taiwan to be delayed by up to five hours, an EVA official said.

China has significantly tightened travel restrictions in an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19 as it prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on February 4.

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