U.S. Airlines and Unions Appeal to Biden Administration for Fair Skies Over China

The aviation industry in the United States, comprising major airlines and unions, has recently made a significant appeal to the Biden administration. They have urged the administration to halt the approval of additional flights between China and the United States. This plea is rooted in the ongoing anti-competitive policies of the Chinese government. In February, the U.S. Transportation Department announced that Chinese passenger airlines could increase weekly round-trip U.S. flights to 50 starting on March 31, up from the current 35. This decision has sparked concern among U.S. airlines and unions. They argue that the Chinese government's policies are anti-competitive and disadvantageous to U.S. airlines.


Airlines for America, a trade group whose members include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, along with unions, have written a letter to the Transportation and State departments. They have highlighted the advantage Chinese airlines receive by continuing to access Russian airspace. At the same time, U.S. carriers stopped flying through Russian airspace at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022.

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The letter, signed by the Air Line Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association, and Association of Flight Attendants, calls on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to pause additional passenger flights between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The unions and airlines demand equality of access in the marketplace, free from the existing harmful anti-competitive policies of the Chinese government. Flights between China and the United States, which were a point of contention during the COVID-19 pandemic, have emerged as a rare area of cooperation between the two superpowers. However, U.S. airlines have expressed concern about the rapid pace of increasing flights. They worry that the Biden administration could boost or even double to 100 the number of weekly flights permitted by Chinese carriers.


In a separate letter, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, the chair of the House Select Committee on China, and the panel's top Democrat, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, also urged the Biden administration not to approve more flights until China abides by its existing bilateral agreement, and passenger demand begins to recover. They argued that Chinese carriers operate air routes at an anti-competitive commercial advantage that must not be allowed to increase without reciprocal parity in the number of U.S. carrier-operated routes to China. In conclusion, the U.S. airlines and unions' plea to the Biden administration underscores the complexities and challenges in the aviation industry. It highlights the need for fair competition and equal access to markets, particularly in the context of geopolitical tensions and the ongoing global pandemic. The Biden administration's response to this plea will undoubtedly have significant implications for the future of international air travel.

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