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StatisticsDetails of circuit-breaker measuresComment

Many industries were affected by the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and the aviation industry is no exception, especially given the restrictions imposed on international air passenger transport. To prevent the cross-border spread of covid-19, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued the CAAC Notice on the Adjustment of the Circuit Breaker Measures for International Passenger Flights, which imposed circuit-breaker measures on scheduled international passenger flights with a high risk of spreading the pandemic from 8 June 2020.

Statistics

The CAAC has taken circuit-breaker measures on 328 scheduled international passenger flights since the policy's implementation. As of August 2021, the CAAC had taken circuit-breaker measures on 26 flights, comprising 14 flights involving Chinese airlines and 12 flights carried by foreign airlines. Of these, most flights were from the Philippines (five flights), followed by Kenya (four flights) and Myanmar (three flights).

Details of circuit-breaker measures

On 28 April 2021, the CAAC issued the CAAC Notice on Trial Implementation of Adjusting the Circuit Breaker Measures for Scheduled International Passenger Flights, and decided to take various measures for scheduled international passenger flights starting from 1 May 2021. Some of the most important measures are listed below.

If between five and nine passengers on the same flight return positive nucleic acid tests (tests for covid-19) after arrival, the airline can choose one of two restrictive measures of operation:circuit-breaker measures – from the fourth week of the flight's arrival, the airline's operation on that specific flight route must be suspended for two weeks, and the "award flight" must be cancelled (normally, if no passengers test positive after arrival for three consecutive weeks on the same flight, one award flight per week can be increased within the flight volume specified, up to two flights per week); ormeasures to limit the passenger load factor (PLF) – from the fourth week of the flight's arrival, the PLF of the specific route flight must not be over 40% for four weeks, and the award flight must be cancelled.If between 10 and 29 passengers test positive after arrival, from the fourth week of the flight's arrival, the airline's operation on that specific route flight must be suspended for four weeks, and the award flight must be cancelled. If the number of infected passengers in two consecutive flights reaches 10 each, circuit-breaker measures must be taken immediately in the same week and the operation of the flight must be suspended for eight weeks in total.If more than 29 passengers test positive after arrival, circuit-breaker measures must be taken immediately in the same week and the operation of the flight must be suspended for four weeks.If an airline chooses the measures to limit the PLF, but the same flight triggers the circuit-breaker measures again, the flight must be suspended immediately. The airline may not choose measures to limit the PLF again for three months.The "number of infected passengers" is defined as the number of passengers who have been infected with covid-19 plus the number of asymptomatic infected individuals on the flight within seven consecutive days from the date of landing. The number will be counted and published by the Health Commission.

Comment

The current CAAC policy indicates that the Chinese government still has a cautious attitude to managing international passenger flights to prevent the cross-border spread of the pandemic. Operators of international flights must carefully check the health status and conditions of passengers before boarding; otherwise, circuit-breaker measures will be triggered and airlines may face punishment from the Chinese authorities. At the same time, once the CAAC has announced that a flight must be suspended under the circuit-breaker measures, airlines need to inform the relevant passengers in a timely manner and assist them in dealing with matters such as refunding tickets and rerouting flights or other such services.

Passengers who intend to come to China by flight must ensure their health condition is good for the sake of other passengers and people living in the cities of arrival. Passengers must cooperate with airlines to provide the required documents (eg, a negative nucleic acid test certificate); otherwise, they may be denied boarding. Airlines may face severe punishment if passengers are carrying covid-19. It has been reported that some passengers who provided false nucleic acid test reports in order to board a flight have been severely punished for their reckless and immoral behaviour.

For further information on this topic please contact Jin Yu-Lai at KaiRong Law Firm by telephone (+86 21 5396 1065) or email ([email protected]). The KaiRong Law Firm website can be accessed at www.skrlf.com.

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