Chinese airlines' newly approved US flights avoid Russian airspace

According to flight tracking website FlightAware and industry officials, Chinese airlines are avoiding flying through Russian airspace in newly approved flights to and from the United States. In retaliation for Washington prohibiting Russian aircraft over the US in March 2022 after the country invaded Ukraine, Russia has blocked US airlines and other foreign carriers from flying over its airspace.

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According to FlightAware data, Chinese aircraft recently allowed by Washington are not flying over Russia, although previously approved Chinese airline US flights are still accessing Russian airspace. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) said on May 3 that it will enable Chinese airlines to boost U.S. passenger services to 12 weekly round-trips, the same number of flights Beijing has allowed for American carriers. Previously, Chinese carriers could only fly eight times per week.


Annie Petsonk, USDOT Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, declined to comment on whether the Biden administration compelled Chinese carriers to avoid Russian airspace as a condition of sanctioning four additional flights. The gradual increase to 12 flights for China and the United States, according to Petsonk, "is the kind of measured pace that we are likely to see." The 12 weekly flights represent a small portion of the more than 150 round-trip flights permitted by each side prior to the imposition of restrictions in early 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. "There is certainly a great deal of interest on both sides in moving forward," Petsonk noted.


The US Department of Transportation approved a new weekly Air China flight from Beijing to New York, a new weekly China Eastern Shanghai Los Angeles trip, a third weekly Xiamen Airlines flight from Xiamen to Los Angeles, and a second weekly China Southern flight from Guangzhou to Los Angeles on May 18. Both the Xiamen and China Southern flights began on May 30. The Chinese carriers could not be reached immediately. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond quickly. In February, two US senators pushed the Biden administration to prohibit Chinese aircraft from flying over Russia on US routes, giving them a fuel burn and flying time advantage. Airlines for America, which represents major US carriers, applauded the senators' efforts at the time, citing long-standing industry worries about flying over Russia.

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Story Reported By Aero-News Journal

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