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Why U.S airlines want Biden to pause Flights from China



"Pause flights coming from China" -- U.S airlines warn Biden

Major U.S. airlines and aviation unions have jointly appealed to the Biden administration, urging a halt to approvals for additional flights between China and the United States.

This plea comes in light of what they term as ongoing “anti-competitive policies of the Chinese government.”

The U.S. Transportation Department had announced in February that Chinese passenger airlines could increase their weekly round-trip flights to 50, starting from March 31, up from the existing 35, a significant step towards pre-pandemic levels. While U.S. carriers were also authorized for 50 weekly flights, they are presently not utilizing their full allotment.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, along with aviation unions, expressed concerns over the “advantage Chinese airlines receive” by accessing Russian airspace.

This advantage persists despite U.S. carriers having ceased flying through Russian airspace since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022.

The letter, initially reported by Reuters, underscored the need to “pause additional passenger flights between the United States and the People’s Republic of China” until parity in access to the marketplace is ensured for U.S. workers and businesses. It specifically called out the “existing harmful anti-competitive policies of the Chinese government.”

Flights between China and the United States, previously contentious during the COVID-19 pandemic, have become an area of cooperation between the two global powers. However, U.S. airlines are apprehensive about the rapid expansion of flights.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the chair and top Democrat, respectively, of the House select committee on China, echoed similar sentiments in a separate letter to the Biden administration.

They urged against approving more flights until China complies with existing bilateral agreements and passenger demand rebounds.

Why U.S airlines want Biden to pause Flights from China

The lawmakers emphasized the necessity for reciprocal parity in the number of routes operated by U.S. and Chinese carriers, citing concerns over security risks posed by traversing Russian airspace.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, each side permitted over 150 weekly round-trip passenger flights between China and the United States. However, restrictions imposed in early 2020 limited the number to 12 per week for both Chinese and U.S. carriers until August 2023.

Subsequent increases saw the number rise to 18, then 24, and eventually to 35 weekly round-trips for Chinese carriers, approved by the USDOT in November.

According to a recent report courtesy of Reuters, newly approved Chinese flights to the United States did not tour Russian airspace, providing them with a competitive advantage in terms of flight time and fuel efficiency over U.S. rivals restricted from such access.