United Wants To Fly To Three Cities In China Next Month

A United Airlines memo to employees is hinting at a possible relaunch of passenger service to several Chinese cities. The news came out in a recent Forbes report, which indicates that the airline wants to resume service to the Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai.

United Airlines 787
Service to China was among the first to be cut as the COVID-19 crisis spread around the world. Photo: United Airlines

“Penciling things in”

A full month has passed since we last reported on United considering a relaunch of service to China. Strangely, it feels like history is repeating itself as the carrier once again seems to be planning ahead. This time around, however, there are more cities than just Shanghai being thrown around.

In fact, United Airlines’ employee memo says the following, according to Forbes:

“We will also pencil in four China routes in the June schedule…We continue to workout the feasibility of restarting passenger service to China.”

Cities being mentioned for this relaunch of service includes Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. The airline wants to fly four routes to the three cities. They are as follows:

  • San Francisco – Shanghai Pudong
  • Newark Liberty – Shanghai Pudong
  • San Francisco Beijing Capital
  • San Francisco – Chengu

Unfortunately, the airline did not specify how many times a week these services to China would operate.

United 787
The flights would depart from the airline’s hubs at San Francisco and Newark. Photo: United Airlines

Could this plan have problems?

There might be one big problem with this plan. According to Forbes, under current Chinese policy, it wouldn’t be allowed due to its “Five One” rule. The rule states:

Only one airline can serve one country from one Chinese city to one foreign city with no more than one flight a week.

This would allow the airline to only fly to mainland China once a week on only one route, nothing more.

Strangely, however, the only reference to this rule that we could find was within the Forbes article itself. Without access to timely and accurate Chinese translation, we aren’t able to locate any primary sources to back this up.

Two strong hubs

It makes sense that the airline would primarily choose San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for the re-launch of these transpacific services. The airline is fairly well established at SFO. In fact, closer to the beginning of this crisis, SFO was among the last United hubs to suspend services to Asia.

Located on the east coast of the United States, Newark (EWR) is also one of United’s strongest hubs. With Shanghai normally being a popular destination from the US, this move would ensure that anyone in the country (outside of SFO and EWR) wouldn’t have to fly too far to connect through to one of these flights.

United Airlines released its June schedule earlier this week. Photo: United


As for official word from United Airlines, a spokesperson tells us:

“We continue to evaluate the feasibility of resuming service to China if and when passenger service is permitted but we have not made any announcements about restarting service at this time.”

This posture makes the most sense as travel restrictions would need to lift in order to have decent load factors on these passenger flights. However, with ‘curves’ flattening and infection rates dropping, it doesn’t hurt to look ahead and be somewhat prepared for resuming certain services.

Do you think United will end up resuming service to China in June? Let us know in the comments.