China will allow more international passenger flights but the slight policy loosening provides far less access than what U.S. airlines want.
That friction culminated with the U.S. proposing to ban Chinese passenger airlines under a notice formally sent to China Wednesday evening local time. China the next morning announced the loosened restrictions.
All airlines from June 8 can operate one weekly flight to China with provisions to increase service to two weekly flights. But Delta Air Lines and United Airlines want to fly multiple daily flights from the U.S. to China.
China should allow U.S. airlines to exercise the “full extent of their bilateral rights,” said Joel Szabat, an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Transportation.
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 05: Capt. William Elder of the inaugural American Airlines non-stop flight … [+]
Delta and United want to fly daily from multiple U.S. cities to China, but the loosened policy still restricts airlines to just one route.
The rule is universal for all foreign and Chinese airlines. U.S. carriers are not being discriminated against but they are demanding more access than any country presently has.
Chinese airlines have been frustrated as well. They had to cut flights after the one weekly flight policy was implemented in March. Chinese airlines collectively flew 34 weekly passenger flights in mid-March and planned to grow. Instead flights decreased to a handful and Chinese airlines have been eagerly waiting to increase flights.
U.S. airlines initially could not fly even one weekly passenger service. China’s one weekly flight policy capped capacity levels at March 12.
By that time U.S. and other foreign airlines had long stopped flying to China, making them ineligible for one weekly flight. Chinese airlines were also affected since they had stopped flying to certain countries as well.
The policy was swiftly implemented to curb imported cases of coronavirus. China started acknowledging that the March 12 benchmark was unfair.
China told the U.S. it was likely to soon lift that cap, but the U.S. proceeded with its proposed ban.
“Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation,” Szabat said. Instead the U.S. wants “an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights.”
Szabat said the U.S. is “fully prepared” to reconsider the ban if China “adjust its policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for U.S. carriers.” But China’s Thursday revision falls well short of U.S. airline flying plans.