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New U.S. ban on Chinese airlines hurts Chinese students who were already struggling to get home

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A new Department of Transportation order banning Chinese airlines from flying to and from the U.S. is an added hardship for thousands of Chinese students in the U.S. who were already struggling to get back home due to their own government’s cap on international flights.

The U.S. DOT order, posted Wednesday on a federal website, is scheduled to take effect on June 16. Several Chinese students in New York tell NBC News that previous Chinese regulations limiting the number of flights into China because of the coronavirus pandemic have already had them scrambling for weeks to find flights home with little success. There are more than 400,000 Chinese students in the U.S.

“I know the relationships between the two countries are kind of frayed on multiple fronts, but you know, it’s your students, you’ve got to take care of us,” said Jiang Li, a former New York University student who has been trying to book a flight back to China since April.

Li, 30, said he was initially angry when he first heard of the decision Wednesday morning, but is hopeful that an agreement will be reached to resume flights later this month.

A new Department of Transportation order banning Chinese airlines from flying to and from the U.S. is an added hardship for thousands of Chinese students in the U.S. who were already struggling to get back home due to their own government’s cap on international flights.

The U.S. DOT order, posted Wednesday on a federal website, is scheduled to take effect on June 16. Several Chinese students in New York tell NBC News that previous Chinese regulations limiting the number of flights into China because of the coronavirus pandemic have already had them scrambling for weeks to find flights home with little success. There are more than 400,000 Chinese students in the U.S.

“I know the relationships between the two countries are kind of frayed on multiple fronts, but you know, it’s your students, you’ve got to take care of us,” said Jiang Li, a former New York University student who has been trying to book a flight back to China since April.

Li, 30, said he was initially angry when he first heard of the decision Wednesday morning, but is hopeful that an agreement will be reached to resume flights later this month.

In March, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) drastically reduced the number of international flights through its so-called “Five One” policy. Under the policy, foreign airlines can only fly one route into China and Chinese domestic airlines only one route out to any country — both with no more than one weekly flight. The aviation authority also limited the number of passengers on each plane to no more than 75 percent capacity.

The policy created a dilemma for Chinese students: finish the semester here in the U.S. and risk being stranded or immediately buy a ticket home.

“I was pretty stressed, especially when they first announced the limited flights,” said Owen, 28, who was finishing his master of business administration at NYU. “I was debating whether I should just leave the country ASAP.”

Owen, who didn’t want his last name used, chose to stay in the U.S. to finish his degree. But the decision came at a price, as tickets back to China have become increasingly hard to obtain.

According to aviation analytics firm OAG, the number of flights into China dropped from 1,340 in January to 69 in April. Before Wednesday’s announcement, the number of scheduled flights from the U.S. to China for June 2020 was about 79 flights, compared to 1,524 for June 2019.

Given the estimated 410,000 Chinese students in the U.S., according to April figures from China’s Ministry of Education, the lack of commercial airline tickets has created a market that cannot keep up with consumer demand.

In Owen’s case, he purchased multiple tickets back to China in hopes that one of the flights would not get cancelled.

“I have to admit that it was a very draining process to have to constantly checking on the available tickets,” Owen, who showed NBC News the more than $20,000 worth of transactions he made to purchase plane tickets. “You have to bet on multiple tickets to be able to go back to China.”

Yahoo.com

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