DOT Further Expands Chinese Airlines’ US Flight Permissions

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has further amended its permissions for Chinese airlines to fly to the United States. Now, all mainland Chinese carriers will be able to operate an aggregate of four weekly roundtrip scheduled passenger flights. This comes after China agreed to allow United and Delta twice-weekly roundtrip flights between the US and China.

Chinese airlines
The DOT has expanded flight permissions for Chinese airlines to the United States. Photo: Getty Images

More roundtrips between China and the US

In the last few weeks, the DOT has spent some time focused on flight permissions for US airlines to fly to mainland China. Previously, China had some of the strictest restrictions on international flights, leaving American carriers shut out of the market. Both United and Delta are eyeing a return to mainland China this summer.

United 787-9 Dreamliner
China is a strong market for United, and the carrier is keen to reinstate operations. Photo: Getty Images

Now, the DOT has allowed an aggregate total of four weekly roundtrip scheduled passenger flights on Chinese airlines. This means that all of mainland China’s carriers (being Air China, Beijing Capital, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan, Sichuan, and Xiamen) are allowed a grand total of four weekly roundtrips between the US and China combined. Essentially, this order will lead some Chinese airlines to be shut out of operating to the United States.

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China has granted US airlines flights

On June 12th, the CAAC announced that it would allow United and Delta two weekly roundtrip flights. Three days later, on June 15th, the necessary operating permissions for those airlines were granted by Chinese authorities – thus paving the way for Delta and United to reinstate flights.

Delta Shanghai
Delta wants to resume flights to Shanghai– a major hub for its partner China Eastern. Photo: Getty Images

United Airlines provided Simple Flying the following statement:

“We welcome efforts to allow for resumption of our service between the U.S. and China for the benefit of our customers.  United aims to re-launch our service to China in the weeks ahead.”

Part of a spat on air travel rights

Earlier this month, the DOT announced that it would ban Chinese airlines from flying to the United States after the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) did not yet allow Delta and United to resume flights to China.

Only a few days later, the DOT made an about-face and allowed two weekly roundtrip flights across all Chinese airlines.

DOT Further Expands Chinese Airlines’ US Flight Permissions
Only after China gave Delta and United necessary permissions did the DOT expand flights for Chinese airlines to the US. Photo: Getty Images

The DOT has accused China of blocking US airlines from returning to the market while Chinese carriers continued to fly between the two countries. Per previous documentation from the DOT, the US government believed that Chinese airlines were also using chart flights to circumvent scheduled commercial flight rules from China to operate more frequencies to the United States– all while United and Delta did not receive necessary permissions to reinstate scheduled commercial flights.

The DOT stated the following in its order:

“Our overriding goal is not the perpetuation of this situation, but rather an improved environment wherein the carriers of both parties will be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights. Only then will the Department’s actions to maintain a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity among U.S. and Chinese air carriers in the scheduled passenger service marketplace no longer be necessary. The most recent CAAC actions, while a step in the right direction, have not created that environment. However, should the CAAC adjust its policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for U.S. carriers, the Department is fully prepared to once again revisit the action”

Ultimately, the US believes that its airlines should be granted equal permissions as Chinese airlines for flights between the two countries. This is the DOT’s move to ensure that US airlines are given fair competition across the Pacific.

The ideal goal for the DOT is to see China remove the restrictions on US airlines and allow them to operate more flights per week between the two countries. Both United and Delta are keen to return to the market.

Do you think the DOT is taking the right action? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!