Delta to resume China flights as US-China aviation spat cools

Jun 22, 2020

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Delta Air Lines will restart service to China on Thursday, adding flights between Seattle and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) with a crew stop at Seoul Incheon (ICN).

The Atlanta-based airline will become the first U.S. carrier to return to China since flights were halted at the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February. The Seattle-Shanghai flights will operate twice a week in June. Starting in July, Delta plans to operate one flight a week from Seattle and Detroit on Thursdays and Fridays respectively — also via Seoul.

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  • DL287/288: outbound departs Seattle at 11:30 p.m. Thursday (all times local) and arrives Shanghai at 4:45 a.m., return departs Shanghai at 9:15 a.m. Saturday and arrives Seattle at 7:15 a.m. The itinerary includes a stop in Seoul.
  • DL283/284: outbound departs Detroit at 7 p.m. Friday (all times local) and arrives Shanghai at 12:15 a.m., return departs Shanghai at 4:45 a.m. Sunday and arrives Detroit at 8:20 a.m. The itinerary includes a stop in Seoul.

Both flights will be flown on an Airbus A350-900 fitted with 306 seats, including 32 Delta One business class suites. The Seattle route will revert back to an Airbus A330-900neo beginning August, which only has 29 Delta One suites but has a Comfort+ cabin — which the A350-900 doesn’t.

Wong Hong, Delta’s President for Greater China and Singapore, said in a statement that the carrier is “excited to resume our services between the U.S. and China, as economic and social activities start to recover.”

Review: 8 reasons why Delta One is the go-to way for Asia

Delta’s resumption of China service comes after a series of tit-for-tat exchanges between U.S. and Chinese aviation authorities seemed to have died down last week. The spat hit its crescendo when Washington said it would bar Chinese carriers from flying to the U.S. earlier this month. Since then, the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) had been gradually revising its policy to allow for more flights by U.S. carriers.

Chinese carriers had also applied for increased services to the U.S., but the Department of Transportation announced last Friday that it was rejecting those requests to “maintain the parity in scheduled passenger services between U.S. and Chinese carriers.” DOT noted, however, that it was willing to review this decision if the CAAC adjusted its policies affecting U.S. carriers. Delta’s schedule reflects the current route policy between the two countries, which allows for U.S. airlines to offer two round-trip flights per week.

While Delta gets set to resume its China service, it will likely soon be joined by United.

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The Chicago-based carrier also plans to serve destinations in Mainland China, specifically Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai from San Francisco (SFO) — plus a flight from Newark (EWR) to Shanghai. While the carrier had put its plans for China on hold because of the uncertainties surrounding schedule policy, it is still planing to resume flights to China.

But United does not yet have a firm date for the re-start, with a spokesperson telling TPG that “we aim to re-launch our service to China in the weeks ahead.”

Whenever that restart comes, however, United will have to cut one of its planned routes if no additional changes are the current flight limits imposed by U.S. and Chinese regulators.

Despite the resumptions, passenger traffic on the routes is still expected to be limited. Foreign nationals remain prohibited from entering China, and the U.S. government is forbidding entry for anyone who has visited China within the 14 days prior to departure — though U.S. citizens and green card holders are exempt.

Guide: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus travel restrictions

Featured Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy

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