Delta Air Lines will soon resume flights between China and the United States following a lengthy break caused by the coronavirus.
The airline will fly weekly from Seattle to Shanghai via Seoul starting on Thursday. From July, it will also add a weekly flight from Detroit to Shanghai, also stopping at the Incheon airport.
These will be the first US airline flights between the two countries since America’s airlines suspended their services to China in February because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Great China-US Flight Fracas
The announcement follows a diplomatic scuffle earlier this month which threatened to close off all direct flights between the two nations.
Flights to and from China have been cut severely since Beijingbanned foreigners from entering the country back in March while Chinese aviation regulatorslimited foreign airlines to just one flight per week in a move aimed at preventing a second wave of coronavirus infections from hitting the Middle Kingdom.
However, the one flight per week rule was based on routes that airlines had operated earlier that month. By that time, United, Delta, and American airlines had all stopped services to China — meaning that they were all allowed zero flights.
This recently became an issue as both United and Delta told Chinese regulators that they would like to resume service to China on June 1.
China’s aviation authority replied that while they were considering amending regulations, nothing was definite yet, prompting the Trump administration to take action to “restore a competitive balance,” announcing that Chinese carriers would be allowed to operate the same number of flights to the US as the Chinese government allowed US carriers to operate to China.
This effective ban was set to come into effect on June 16. Instead, the two governments worked out an agreement where each side would be allowed four weekly flights between the two countries.
On the Chinese side, these flights are: Air China’s Beijing to Los Angeles, China Eastern’s Shanghai to New York, China Southern’s Guangzhou to Los Angeles, and Xiamen Air’s Xiamen to Los Angeles.
On the other side of the Pacific, United Airlines will start flying twice per week from San Francisco to Shanghai on July 6.
China welcomes back other foreign carriers… with some stipulations
Meanwhile, China’s aviation regulator has loosened its overall restrictions, allowing more foreign carriers to resume once-a-week flights to China while mandating that these airlines’ future prospects be predicated upon how many Covid-19 cases they bring in.
If the number of passengers who test positive for the virus reaches five, the airline’s flights will be suspended for a week. If they reach 10, the suspension will jump to four weeks.
However, if the airline brings in no infected passengers for three weeks in a row, that airline will be allowed to add an additional weekly flight to China.
Already, both Air France and Air New Zealand have restored their services to Shanghai, between Paris and Auckland respectively.
All of these flights will have their capacity capped at 75 percent in business class and 60 percent in economy. Passengers will have to wear face masks for the duration of their journey apart from during meal service.