China-US aviation spat ratchets down as Washington OKs more flights

Jun 16, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The back-and-forth aviation battle between the United States and China appears to be letting up.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new transpacific aviation policy late Monday that will peg the maximum number of flights to the U.S. by Chinese airlines to the number of flights Beijing is allowing U.S. carriers to operate to China.

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more aviation news.

“As the Chinese government allows more flights by U.S. carriers, we will reciprocate,” the DOT said in announcing the policy.

It’s the latest development in an ongoing war of words over air service between the two countries that only now seems to be easing.

The most dramatic episode came earlier this month when Washington said it would bar Chinese carriers from serving the U.S. entirely, a move that came after the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) used a technicality in its COVID-19 flight policy to effectively bar U.S. airlines from restoring service to China.

Review: Air China’s 747-8 in first class from Beijing to New York.

The CAAC announced an easing of its rules the very next day, saying U.S. airlines would be able to resume limited service between the two countries with a schedule of one round-trip flight per week for approved carriers. At the time, only Delta and United had announced plans to resume China service — meaning that the Chinese policy would have allowed a total of two U.S.-China round-trips a week on U.S. carriers.

The DOT, however, said that China’s new policy was still too restrictive and again updated its permissions for Chinese carriers, effectively reducing their transpacific schedules to a cumulative total of two weekly flights, matching what China was allowing U.S. carriers in its latest update.

That policy was set to take effect Tuesday. But the DOT’s Monday announcement confirmed the CAAC’s revised its policy that now will allow U.S. airlines to operate two round-trip flights per week, instead of one.

So far, with only Delta and United having announced plans to restore service to China, that means there could be four round-trip flights by U.S. airlines to China. Likely not coincidentally, that matches what’s currently being flown by China-based carriers, with four airlines each providing one weekly round-trip flight to the U.S.

Related: United and American may ban passengers who don’t wear masks.

While the DOT said it applauds the relaxing of restrictions, its position is that service should be completely restored to pre-coronavirus levels. “The Department will continue to press for the full restoration of passenger air travel between the United States and China,” it said in a statement.

Delta, which had hoped to resume its China service earlier this month, now said it hoped to do so next week. The carrier told Reuters that it would fly two flights from Seattle to Shanghai next week, with each stopping in Seoul en route. In July, Delta said it would continue its schedule of two weekly flights, though one would originate in Seattle and the other in Detroit. Both of those flights also are scheduled to operate with a stop in Seoul. It was unclear when United might restart service following the latest DOT-CAAC updates.

For now, however, there is a limited pool of people who would even be allowed to take the U.S.-China nonstops. Foreign nationals remain prohibited from entering China, so the new flights will only be open to Chinese citizens.

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

Featured photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.