The three largest US airlines plan to more than double the number of flights to China in the coming months as they take advantage of a deal between the nations to ease pandemic-era travel restrictions.
(Bloomberg) — The three largest US airlines plan to more than double the number of flights to China in the coming months as they take advantage of a deal between the nations to ease pandemic-era travel restrictions.
American Airlines Group Inc. told Bloomberg on Wednesday it would add three weekly flights between Dallas and Shanghai early next year. The decision came after rivals Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. disclosed plans for new and expanded US-China routes in the coming months.
The carriers are rushing back into the transpacific market after the US Transportation Department on Friday said the limit on flights between the countries would increase in each of the next two months.
In total, the three companies — which currently operate just four weekly flights apiece to China — have proposed adding 19 more by the end of January, pending regulatory sign-off. The tentative plans exceed the flying limits announced by US officials, suggesting some of the new flights might not be approved.
Read More: US-China Flights Approved to Double Under Government Agreement
Large airlines are capitalizing on a surge in international travel, countering soft domestic demand, as more countries relax restrictions put in place in recent years. Travel to Asia has been slower to rebound than the European market, and flights to China have particularly been restricted by the Transportation Department.
“These additional frequencies reflect China finally returning to a more normalized international market,” said John Grant, chief data analyst for OAG, which provides global travel information. Flying to visit relatives and friends in the two countries will likely fuel more travel than corporate demand for at least the short term.
American, which will offer daily service between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International starting in January, plans to begin selling seats on the new flights this weekend.
Delta said earlier Wednesday that it will operate daily flights from Seattle to Shanghai starting Oct. 29 and fly three times a week from Detroit to Shanghai. It also intends to add Los Angeles-Shanghai flights four times a week in March.
United last week revealed plans to resume daily flights between San Francisco and Beijing in November and increase to daily flights between San Francisco and Shanghai starting Oct. 1.
The three US carriers currently split evenly 12 weekly flights between the two countries. That will increase to 18 a week as of Sept. 1 and to 24 on Oct. 29, the Transportation Department said last week. Chinese carriers also will split the same rising number of weekly flights to the US.
The Transportation Department “will continue to ensure that US air carriers can reinstate all flights that they wish in accordance with their commercial decision-making and as provided for under” a US-China agreement on flights between the countries, the agency said in a statement.
Flights between China and the US were regulated before the pandemic by an air service treaty signed by the two nations. US officials took over governing flights after China unilaterally imposed pandemic-linked limits on service by US airlines in 2020.
(Updates with DOT comment in 11th paragraph.)
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