Delta Air Lines will resume commercial flights to China in three days. This will make the airline the first in the United States to resume China flights after suspending them due to the global health crisis. The first routes this week operate between Seattle and Shanghai with a stop in Seoul-Incheon.
Resuming China flights
From June 25th, Delta will resume service between Seattle (SEA) and Shanghai (PVG). This time, however, there will be a stop in Seoul. Operating twice weekly, Delta will utilize an Airbus A350 on the route.
Speaking on the resumption of the routes, Wong Hong, Delta’s President of Greater China and Singapore, stated the following,
“We are excited to resume our services between the U.S. and China, as economic and social activities start to recover. With a mission to connect the world, Delta is committed to getting our customers to their destinations safely and confidently, especially at this critical time. We are implementing unprecedented health and safety measures and practices, so customers are assured of ease and safety at all points of their journey.”
Shanghai is a natural gateway for Delta. Its main Chinese partner, China Eastern Airlines, operates a significant hub at Shanghai-Pudong. In addition, the city is a big economic and tourist center– which Delta hopes it can capitalize on.
The stop in Seoul is more for crew routing. Delta Air Lines does not have traffic rights solely between Seoul and Shanghai. Instead, the stop will allow Delta’s crew to avoid a layover in China– which has a strict policy that denies entry to most foreigners.
Delta’s social distancing policies will remain in effect for these flights.
Detroit will see China service next month
From July, Delta will modify its schedule to China. Seattle to Shanghai via Seoul will go down to once-weekly flights. The second weekly flight will operate from Detroit to Shanghai, also via Seoul. The Detroit flight will also see Airbus A350 service.
The outbound flights will leave Seattle on Thursdays, and leave Detroit on Fridays. Meanwhile, the return flights will leave Shanghai for Seattle on Saturdays and leave Shanghai for Detroit on Sundays.
From August 1st, Delta plans on placing an Airbus A330-900neo on the Seattle to Shanghai Route.
A complicated road to getting here
The United States and China do not have an Open Skies agreement. Instead, airlines are granted certain frequencies based on an agreement between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC). While Delta does have traffic rights to and from China under this agreement, the recent crisis caused Beijing to make some changes.
China is only allowing two flights per week for each airline seeking to operate from the US to China. Currently, only United and Delta have expressed an interest in returning to the market. However, the airlines faced delays in receiving necessary permissions to fly passengers.
The US Department of Transportation got involved, saying that China was blocking US carriers from starting flights to the country. After a review of flight schedules, the United States first decided to bar Chinese airlines from flying to the United States.
Then, China altered its policies to give US airlines a little more freedom to fly to China– but only one flight per week. The DOT then followed up by allowing only two flights per week on Chinese airlines between the US and China. Facing additional pressure, China then opened up two weekly flights for United and Delta to operate to the country. In return, the DOT further amended its permissions to give Chinese carriers, in the aggregate, four weekly flights between mainland China and the United States.
Are you going to take Delta’s flights to China? Are you excited to see the airline return to the market? Let us know in the comments!