The Biden administration said on Friday that the United States and China would agree to double the number of passenger flights currently allowed for carriers between the two countries, in a rare sign of cooperation between the world’s two largest airlines. economies.
The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) said it will increase the number of Chinese passenger flights allowed to fly to the US to 18 round-trip flights per week on Sept. 1 and increase that to 24 per week from Oct. 29, up from the current number. 12.
She said the Chinese government would agree to the same increase for US airlines, confirming the decision, which Reuters reported earlier.
The agreement between Beijing and Washington, which has embroiled in disputes on many fronts, comes after China on Thursday lifted pandemic-era restrictions on group trips to more countries, including key markets such as the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
The first batch of flights has been approved to begin September 1, USDOT said, “to meet the expected increase in demand at the beginning of the school year.”
Sources said US airlines are not expected to immediately take advantage of all 18 weekly flights.
The Chinese embassy in Washington referred questions about specific details to the authorities in China, but said, “Direct flights are essential to increasing reciprocal visits between the Chinese and American people. We hope that the return of more flights will benefit the flow of people and trade between the two countries.”
USDOT added that following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s June visit to China, continued engagement by the USDOT and the State Department with Chinese officials “made this important step forward possible.”
“Our overriding goal is to improve the environment where carriers of both parties can fully exercise their bilateral rights to maintain a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity between U.S. and Chinese carriers,” USDOT said in its approval order on Friday.
Air China (601111.SS) said in a note with USDOT on Thursday that it is seeking permission to add a new weekly flight between Beijing and Los Angeles.
China Eastern (600115.SS), Xiamen Airlines, and China Southern (600029.SS) also fly scheduled flights to the United States, while United Airlines, American Airlines (AAL.O) and Delta Airlines (DAL.N) currently operate passenger flights to China.
United said on Friday it would expand its flights between the two countries under the agreement, resuming flights to Beijing and re-introducing daily services to Shanghai.
American Airlines, an industry trade group, said it “supports the gradual reopening of air service between the United States and China in parallel with increases in passenger demand over time. Today’s revised system ensures a fair and equal opportunity for US airlines to compete in the market.”
The 24 flights per week is still a fraction of the more than 150 round trips allowed by each side before restrictions were imposed in early 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.
On May 3, USDOT said it would allow Chinese airlines to increase US passenger services to 12 round trips per week, which is equal to the number of flights Beijing has allowed US carriers. Previously, only eight weekly flights were allowed for Chinese airlines.
US airlines have indicated that they cannot fly over Russian airspace to China, making some routes much longer. Reuters reported in June that Chinese airlines were avoiding flying over Russian airspace on newly approved flights to and from the United States, but still using Russian airspace for other flights.
(Reporting by David Shepardson) Editing by Margarita Choi
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