American Airlines and Delta Air Lines will both add more flights to China this fall and winter as geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China begin easing.
Fort Worth, Texas-based American will add three weekly nonstops for a single daily flight on the Dallas-Fort Worth-Shanghai route in January, an airline spokesperson said Wednesday. And Atlanta-based Delta will add six weekly flights for a total of 10 — once daily Seattle-Shanghai and thrice-weekly Detroit-Shanghai — on October 29, the carrier also said Wednesday.
The additions come less than a week after U.S. and Chinese officials agreed to double the number of nonstop flights between the two countries to 48 a week — 24 for airlines of each country — from October 29. A sticking point in negotiations has been U.S. demands that flights on Chinese airlines to the U.S. avoid Russian airspace, which U.S. carriers are barred from crossing. Flights were capped at 24 a week since China eased Covid-19 travel restrictions in January.
Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and United Airlines have also outlined plans to add more flights since the new frequency limit was unveiled. The three Chinese carriers each plan to operate five weekly flights through October 28, while United plans to offer at least eight weekly flights between San Francisco and both Beijing and Shanghai from November.
The flight limits have been blamed for stymieing the recovery of Chinese visitor flows to the U.S. The segment generated some $35 billion in annual spending in American cities before the pandemic.
“There won’t be a post-Covid recovery without China because it’s our number one spend market,” Brand USA President and CEO Chris Thompson said earlier in August.
Foreign airlines, like All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air, that lack the frequency restrictions their U.S. and Chinese competitors face have picked up connecting traffic on their China flights. ANA President and CEO Shinichi Inoue said in June that the U.S.-China restrictions had created “new demand” for the airline.
In 2019, there were more than 50 daily nonstop flights — or more than 360 weekly frequencies — between the U.S. and China, according to Cirium Diio schedules.