US Department Of Transportation Extends Waiver Of American Carriers’ China Flights


Summary US airlines, including American, Delta, and United, are delaying many services to China until at least October.
The DOT authorized another 90-day waiver period, allowing these airlines to postpone China flights without losing routes.
Demand for US-China flights has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with just 27% capacity compared to 2019.
The three largest US airlines – American, Delta and United – will delay resuming many services to China until October at the earliest, with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) authorizing another 90-day waiver period. US carriers are currently operating at a significantly reduced rate compared to pre-pandemic times, with demand for flights failing to recover.
US airlines to delay China return
As first reported by FlightGlobal, the DOT issued another 90-day waiver, which will give airlines until October 26 to delay the restart of many China flights. Under the terms of an air transport agreement between the two countries, US airlines are granted DOT approval to operate routes to China, but they need to fulfill these flights or risk losing them.
Photo: Spyros Vasileiou | Shutterstock
The DOT started issuing waivers during the pandemic and has extended them repeatedly while slowly allowing US and Chinese airlines to resume operations. Up until September 2023, carriers in the two countries were allowed just 12 weekly flights, rising to its current level of 35 flights in November. However, US airlines believe that demand for US-China flights has not returned to what it was and will likely stay this way during the upcoming summer season.
Related How US DOT’s US-China Announcement Will Impact Airline Operations Number of China-US flights is about to increase for the fifth time, but it still remains at only one-third of the pre-pandemic level.
The newest waiver will apply to 14 flights operated by American, 32 by Delta, and 49 by United. As per Cirium data for March 2024, United currently operates the most frequencies to China with 14 weekly flights with its daily roundtrips from San Francisco (SFO) to Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG), while Delta offers 10 weekly flights from Seattle (SEA) and Detroit (DTW) to Shanghai. American Airlines has just a single route connecting Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Shanghai with a daily Boeing 787-8 flight.
Capacity less than a third of pre-pandemic
In total, these three US carriers will operate 31 flights and a total of 18,846 seats each week between the US and China in March. Compare this to the same month in 2019, and capacity is currently at just 27% when measured in available seats. In March 2019, the same three airlines offered 131 flights and 69,668 seats per week, along with more departure options that included the likes of Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR) and Washington (IAD).
Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock
Chinese airlines to ramp up next month
Just a week ago, the US Department of Transport (DOT) authorized an increase in frequencies from China-based airlines flying to the US, boosting the allowance from 35 to 50 weekly flights. While this is only one-third of pre-pandemic levels, the DOT claimed the move marks “a significant step forward in further normalization of the US-China market” ahead of the summer season.
Do you think US airlines are making the right move in delaying the resumption of many flights to China? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.



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