The US and China Agreed To Boost Weekly Flights

The Biden administration announced on Friday that air carriers between the United States and China will be permitted to fly twice the number of passenger flights currently allowed, which is a rare sign of cooperation between the two largest economies in the world. The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) stated that Chinese passenger flights will be allowed to fly to the United States up to 18 weekly round-trips starting on September 1st, increasing to 24 per week on October 29th, up from the current number of 12. 


The Chinese government will also agree to the same increase for American carriers, as confirmed by Reuters. This agreement between Beijing and Washington comes after China lifted pandemic-era restrictions on group tours for more countries, including the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Australia on Thursday. The USDOT explained that the first set of flights was approved to begin on September 1st "to meet an anticipated increase in demand around the start of the academic year." However, sources state that U.S. airlines are not expected to take advantage of all 18 weekly flights immediately. 

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The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not provide specific details but stated that "Direct flights are essential for increasing mutual visits between Chinese and American peoples. We hope that the restoration of more flights will do good to the flow of people and trade between the two countries." The USDOT added that consistent engagement by the State Department and USDOT with Chinese officials after Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to China in June "made this important step forward possible." In its approval order on Friday, the USDOT stated that its "overriding goal is an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties can exercise fully their bilateral rights to maintain a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity among U.S. and Chinese air carriers." Air China filed with USDOT on Thursday, seeking permission to add a new weekly flight between Beijing and Los Angeles. 


China Eastern, Xiamen Airlines, and China Southern also fly scheduled service to the United States, while United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines currently operate passenger flights to China. United Airlines announced on Friday that it will expand flights between the two countries under the agreement, resuming flights to Beijing and reintroducing its daily service to Shanghai. Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said it "supports the gradual reopening of U.S.-China air services commiserate with increases in passenger demand over time. Today’s modified Order ensures fair and equal opportunity for U.S. airlines to compete in the marketplace." The 24 weekly flights are still a fraction of the more than 150 round-trip flights allowed by each side before restrictions were imposed in early 2020 due to the COVID-pandemic. On May 3, USDOT stated that it would allow Chinese airlines to increase U.S. passenger services to 12 weekly round-trips, equal to the number of flights Beijing has permitted for American carriers. U.S. carriers have noted that they cannot fly over Russian airspace to China, which makes some routes much longer. Media reported in June that Chinese airlines were avoiding flying over Russian airspace in newly approved flights to and from the United States but still using Russian airspace for other flights.

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