BEIJING, March 14 (TMTPOST) – Only a small proportion of flights in resumption plans submitted by Chinese airlines have been approved by the U.S. regulator, according to information recently disclosed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Coupled with the fact that the U.S. airlines have stated that they will not add any new direct flights between China and the U.S., this means that in the short term it will be difficult to achieve a massive increase in direct flights between China and the U.S., and thus airfares will remain high.
On January 3, China’s flag carrier Air China took the lead in submitting a substantial number of applications to the U.S. Department of Transportation for resuming flights. It requested up to 20 additional flights per week between January 18 and March 25, including direct flights between Beijing and New York, San Francisco, and Washington. In addition to Air China, other Chinese carriers had also submitted plans for flights resumption early in the year, such as Hainan Airlines, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. However, none of these massive resumption plans were approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Consequently, the flight plans submitted by Chinese carriers in March were scaled back from their original ones.
As of now, the air routes between China and the U.S. in operation only include 8 flights per week for Chinese airlines and 12 flights per week for U.S. airlines. According to the principle of reciprocity, China can increase flights up to 12 per week. In that case, in the upcoming summer and autumn, the number of direct flights between China and the U.S. would reach 24 per week, with each having 12 flights per week. This is also in line with the general projection of the industry, as U.S. airlines did not add any new direct flights. However, the estimate is no longer realistic given the current circumstances.
Previously, United Airlines stated that it was unable to increase flights due to “orders from the U.S. Department of Transportation.” As for the reasons why U.S. airlines lack the motivation to increase China-U.S. flights, some industry insiders believe that U.S. airlines are unable to fly over Russian airspace, resulting in high direct flight costs and an inability to compete with Chinese airlines. Also, an industry data analyst pointed out that the difficulty for U.S. citizens in obtaining visas for travel to China has resulted in a decrease in demand from U.S. customers for flights to China, which has also played a role in the lack of incentive for U.S. airlines to increase China-U.S. flights.
Meanwhile, a securities analyst said that the U.S. domestic flight supply has not yet recovered to 2019 levels, resulting in a shortage of aircraft supply and a significant increase in plane ticket prices. This may also be one of the reasons for its temporary lack of interest in the Chinese market. At the same time, he also believed that there are many complex reasons underlying the difficulty in increasing flights between China and the U.S., with both politics and markets continuing to shape the recovery process.