Air China Wants Permission For US Domestic Tag Flights

Air China is seeking permission to operate domestic flights within the United States. The routes, which would not be open to fifth freedom sale, would allow the Chinese carrier to maintain its number of destinations while cutting capacity.

Air China, United States, Domestic Flights
Air China is seeking permission to operate domestic tag flights within the United States. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines globally have been faced a huge drop in demand as a result of the Chinese Coronavirus outbreak. While international carriers such as British Airways face interruption on a couple of routes, Chinese carriers are facing the issue across the board as almost all of their flights are to or from China. Air China has come up with a novel way to combat this issue.

US domestic tag flights

According to the aviation website Sam Chui, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has asked Chinese carriers to keep routes open unless they have been banned by another aviation authority. For Air China, in the United States this would mean:

  • Houston;
  • Los Angeles;
  • New York (JFK and EWR);
  • San Francisco;
  • Washington.

Of course, there has been a huge drop in demand as non-American citizens cannot enter the US within 14 days of traveling to China. Additionally, Houston, Washington, and Newark are not open to international arrivals from China. Rather than only operate half-empty flights to three destinations, however, Air China only wants to operate two flights, but to four destinations.

Coronavirus, United States, Arrival Airports
The United States has restricted passengers arriving from China to just 7 airports. Photo: Getty Images

Beijing – San Francisco – Los Angeles

The first route which Air China proposes to operate as a tag flight would see the carrier flying from Beijing to San Francisco. Here, the first batch of passengers would leave the aircraft. This would operate four times per week from the 11th of February, if approved.

Typically on such flights in the United States, all passengers must clear immigrations before continuing on. It is unclear whether Air China would get an exemption to allow passengers to remain onboard the aircraft and clear customs and immigration after the short onward flight to Los Angeles. This would not be possible on the other proposed route…

Air China, United States, Domestic Flights
The two routes which Air China proposes to fly from Beijing. Photo: GCMaps

Beijing – New York – Washington

The second route proposed by Air China would see all passengers having to disembark at the first point of entry into the United States. The flight would operate from Beijing to Washington via New York. However, Washington is not an airport designated to handle international arrivals who have recently traveled to China.

As such, all passengers would be required to undertake the enhanced health screening at New York before continuing onwards to Washington. One Mile At A Time points out that the logistics and time required for this could wreak havoc on the scheduling. It can sometimes take hours to clear US immigration after all.

Do you think the plan will work? Should permission be granted to Air China for the flights? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!