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Delta flight from US to China turns around mid-flight due to new COVID protocol

Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines announced Monday that it had to turn back a flight from Seattle to Shanghai as a result of the Chinese airport's new COVID-19-related cleaning restrictions.

An emailed statement concerning the new mandates at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport said the airport's newly instated cleaning protocols “require significantly extended ground time and are not operationally viable for Delta," according to the Associated Press.

The new mandate comes on the heels of China's decision to tighten its already strict COVID travel policy as a result of a new outbreak of the virus in the city of Xi'an just six weeks before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be hosted in Beijing.

Xi'an reported 63 cases on Thursday, which have now spread to at least five other Chinese cities, according to a story from France 24.

The city of Xi'an, which is home to 13 million people, imposed strict lockdown measures on its citizens Thursday, allowing only one member of each household to leave their homes once every two days to collect necessities for their families, according to a report by Yahoo Sports. The city of Xi'an, which is about 600 miles southwest of Beijing, reported an additional 300 cases over the weekend, the AP reported.

The Delta flight that had to turn back to Seattle while en route to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport left its passengers with both expired COVID test results and U.S. visas, according to the AP.

Delta is not the only airline affected by the Chinese airports' new protocol. China Airlines and EVA Air, both based in Taiwan, reduced the number of flights headed to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, citing the new cleaning policy as the reason for the reduction.

EVA Air is canceling flights from two cities to Shanghai until Feb. 3, and China Airlines decided to cancel flights from one city to Shanghai and reduce the number of flights on another route, according to the AP.

The Chinese consulate in San Francisco did not name Delta in a statement released Sunday, the AP said, but said that a number of flights from the U.S. to China had recently been canceled or delayed.

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