The U.S. has agreed to add six more flights operated by Chinese airlines, effective September 1, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDT) on Monday. The announcement is the second schedule expansion for Chinese air carriers since May this year.
The carriers are Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, with the number flights mainly heading for Los Angeles and New York.
The routes specifically include Beijing to Los Angeles and Beijing to New York operated by Air China, flying once a week. China Eastern Airlines will fly from Shanghai to Los Angeles twice per week, followed by China Southern Airline's flight from Guangzhou to Los Angeles, also operating twice per week.
Chinese airlines will operate up to 18 direct flights between the two countries every week from September 1, with the number expected to increase to 24 flights per week from October 29 this year, per the USDT.
Data from travel platform Qunar.com showed that lowest price ticket from Shanghai to Los Angeles in September was around 8,500 yuan ($1,108), which was about 25 percent lower than the average price compared with two weeks ago.
However, there remains a big gap of the two-way flights compared with 2019.
There were 332 flights between China and the U.S. every week before the pandemic outbreak in 2020, and current capacity is under 10 percent of pre-pandemic levels, meaning that the huge passengers demand cannot be met shortly, Lin Zhijie, an independent market watcher told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The added flights operated by Chinese airlines also came after three U.S. carriers added additional China-bound routes.
Delta Air Lines said on Thursday that it is expanding its flight schedule to China later this year. American Airlines also plans to expand flights to Shanghai early next year, joining rivals in taking advantage of a U.S.-China agreement to increase the number of flights between the countries, according to Bloomberg. United Airlines Holdings is also making similar arrangements.
The USDT said earlier this month that that each country will be granted six weekly round-trip flights as of September 1, up from the current 12 flights. The figure will increase to 24 per week starting from October 29, doubling current levels.
In May of this year, the USDT allowed Chinese airlines to operate 12 round-trip flights between China and the U.S. every week, up from eight, for a total of 24 flights between China and the U.S. every week.
The recovery momentum of China's domestic routes has been robust, as major passenger traffic indicators have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but the recovery progress of overseas routes remains lagging to some extent.
Data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China showed that by the end of June of this year, the international passenger flights have reached 3,368 per week, returning to 44 percent of the pre-pandemic levels.