US Airlines to Double Flights to China Amid Eased Travel Restrictions
American Airlines Group Inc. announced plans to add three weekly flights between Dallas and Shanghai early next year, taking advantage of a recent deal between the United States and China to ease pandemic-era travel restrictions. This move follows similar announcements from rivals Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc., who also have plans to expand their US-China routes in the coming months.
The decision by these major airlines to ramp up their presence in the transpacific market comes after the US Transportation Department announced an increase in the limit on flights between the two countries each month for the next two months.
Currently, the three carriers collectively operate only four weekly flights each to China. However, they now aim to add a total of 19 more flights by the end of January, pending regulatory approval. It remains to be seen whether these ambitious plans will receive the necessary clearance.
The increasing additions to US-China routes reflect a broader trend in the airline industry, as major carriers focus on capitalizing on a surge in international travel. With domestic travel demand remaining relatively weak, airlines are looking to overseas markets that have begun relaxing travel restrictions. While the European market has rebounded more quickly, the recovery in the Asian market has been slower, with flights to China particularly restricted by the Transportation Department.
John Grant, chief data analyst for OAG, a global travel information provider, remarked, “These additional frequencies reflect China finally returning to a more normalized international market.” Grant added that travel for personal reasons, such as visiting family and friends, is likely to drive more demand than corporate travel in the near future.
American Airlines plans to initiate daily service between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International starting in January. The airline aims to start selling seats on these flights over the weekend. Meanwhile, Delta announced that it will operate daily flights from Seattle to Shanghai starting on October 29, as well as three weekly flights from Detroit to Shanghai. In addition, Delta plans to introduce four weekly flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai in March. United Airlines, on the other hand, will resume daily flights between San Francisco and Beijing in November, and increase to daily flights between San Francisco and Shanghai starting October 1.
Presently, the three US carriers evenly split 12 weekly flights between China and the US. However, this number will rise to 18 per week starting on September 1, and then to 24 per week beginning on October 29, according to the Transportation Department. Chinese carriers will also divide the same increasing number of weekly flights to the US.
Before the pandemic, flights between China and the US were regulated by an air service treaty between the two nations. However, in 2020, China unilaterally implemented limits on service by US airlines, prompting US officials to take over governing flights.
As the world gradually emerges from the grips of the pandemic, the expansion of US-China flight routes signifies a significant step toward resuming regular international travel. With the airline industry bouncing back and countries relaxing restrictions, travelers can look forward to more options for crossing borders and reconnecting with loved ones around the globe.