Delta Returns Plane Bound For China To US Mid-Flight Because Of New COVID Rule

Delta Air Lines said Monday that it was forced to return a flight from Seattle to Shanghai back to the U.S. mid-flight because of new COVID-19 cleaning regulations imposed at the Chinese destination airport.

The AP reported that a statement regarding new cleaning protocols at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport requires “significantly extended” time on the ground and is not “operationally viable” for Delta.

China announced the new rules following the nation’s decision to enhance its already stringent COVID travel restrictions and policies. A recent outbreak of reported cases in the major city of Xi’an just weeks before the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Beijing has placed the communist nation on alert.

The outbreak in Xi’an, a city of 13 million residents, has reportedly spread to five other Chinese cities. Xi’an imposed new strict lockdown mandates on citizens last week. Only a single person from every household can leave home once every two days to pick up absolute necessities for their families. The city is about 600 miles from Beijing and had another 300 cases reported last weekend.

The AP reported that the Delta flight sent back to Seattle left passengers traveling to China with COVID test results and travel visas that will now expire before their travel can be completed.

In addition to Delta, China Airlines and Taiwan’s EVA Air have been affected by the new Shanghai protocols. Both have reduced, and rescheduled flights initially set to bring travelers to Pudong International Airport.

EVA Air is discontinuing flight service to Shanghai until at least February 3. China Airlines is canceling one set of domestic routes into Shanghai and is reducing service from other cities.

In an official statement issued on Sunday, China’s consulate in San Francisco did not specifically name Delta Air Lines. Still, it did say that several regular flights from the U.S. to China have been delayed or outright canceled.