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Chinese Airlines Allowed to Lift US Flights to 50 a Week

Flights between China and the US were badly disrupted by the Covid pandemic, but the US says Chinese airlines can boost weekly flights to 50 from March 31.

A China Eastern Airlines plane and a Shanghai Airlines jet are seen at Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai in this file Reuters image.


Chinese passenger airlines will be able to increase their weekly round-trip flights to the United States to 50 from March 31.

The US Transportation Department gave a green light on Monday for a greater number of Chinese flights – up from the current 35.

The move means the market is back to nearly a third of its pre-pandemic level.


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The approval “is a significant step forward in further normalization of the US-China market in anticipation of the Summer 2024 traffic season,” the USDOT said.

More than 150 weekly round-trip passenger flights were allowed by each side before restrictions were imposed in early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but until August 2023, Chinese and US carriers could each fly only 12 a week between the two countries.

The number rose on September 1 to 18 weekly round-trips and then to 24 per week starting October 29. The USDOT approved 35 for Chinese carriers in November.

Airlines for America, a group representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, which fly a combined 31 weekly flights to China, said it “supports the US government’s approach to slowly, gradually and reciprocally reopen the market with China. It’s imperative the US government maintains this approach.”


China welcomes the extra flights

The Chinese embassy in Washington said it was “glad to see the positive progress made on increasing direct passenger flights between China and the US.”

The embassy added it is working to “further facilitate cross-border travel and promote people-to-people exchange between the two countries.”

Last June Reuters reported that newly approved Chinese flights to the United States were not overflying Russia, which would have given them a shorter flight time and fuel advantage over US rivals blocked from Russian airspace.

Other international air markets involving China have reopened far more quickly, with seat capacity between China and the United Kingdom this month exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 30%, and China-Singapore by 6%, according to aviation data provider OAG.

The USDOT said it was engaged in a productive dialogue with China’s aviation regulator towards the “implementation of a roadmap to provide for a gradual, broader reopening of the US-China air services market and a phased and predictable return to the capacity entitlements” specified under a US-China agreement.

On a trip to China last year, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she wanted to boost travel and tourism between the two countries.

If China returned to 2019 US tourism levels, it would add $30 billion to the US economy and 50,000 US jobs, Raimondo said in August.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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