An Air China plane takes off from Beijing Daxing International Airport. (Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily)
The United States will permit Chinese airlines to increase passenger flights between the two countries to 12 round trips a week, equal to the number China has allowed for U.S. airlines, the United States Department of Transportation said on Wednesday.
The increase, up from the current eight weekly round trips, will take effect immediately.
The international passenger services will be run by Air China, Beijing Capital Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.
Although China has downgraded its COVID-19 management and lifted travel restrictions on Jan 8, the number of passenger flights remains significantly lower than those pre-pandemic.
It is the first flight increase between the two countries allowed by the U.S. since August 2020.
The U.S. and some foreign air carriers have been barred from flying over Russia since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began in March last year. It costs less fuel and time to fly over Russia on the China-U.S. route, especially for flights linking northern Chinese cities such as Beijing.
Since China downgraded its COVID-19 measures, the country has been resuming more international flights.
The U.S. said "the removal of restrictions by CAAC is a long-awaited positive step".
The CAAC has reiterated that it is maintaining dialogue with other countries to increase international flights.
A total of 58 countries have resumed international flights to and from China, about 80 percent of those offering such services before the pandemic, Liang Nan, director of the transport department of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a news conference in Beijing last month.
At the beginning of last month, there were about 4,000 international flights in China, more than four times the volume seen from Jan 2 to Jan 8, a week before the new management policy came into effect, she said.
Liang also noted that the figure was about 26 percent of the number of flights before the pandemic.
She also noted in January that if the market recovers well, the number of international flights to and from China by the end of the year is expected to reach about 80 percent of the level before the COVID-19 pandemic, with about 7,300 flights per week.