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US, China reciprocate on more airline access

Decisions boost cargo capacity on key China routes

United Airlines is adding a couple more flights between San Francisco and Shanghai. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Shippers will have eight additional flights per week with coveted cargo space on the busy China-U.S. route after the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday permitted four Chinese carriers to double the number of round-trip flights they operate. 

The U.S. decision came in response to Chinese aviation authorities on Monday authorizing United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) to increase service frequency from two times weekly to four times weekly. 

The two governments have gradually eased access to each other’s airlines after a dispute over flight limitations and containing the spread of the coronavirus. The DOT was prepared in early June to ban the Chinese carriers after China wouldn’t allow flights from the U.S.

United Airlines immediately announced it will operate four weekly flights between San Francisco and Shanghai Pudong International Airport via Seoul, South Korea, beginning Sept. 4 with Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft. United resumed twice-weekly service between those cities in early July

And Delta said it would add one weekly flight from Detroit and Seattle each to Shanghai beginning Aug. 24. 

The withdrawal of most passenger schedules has created tight supply for cargo owners that depend on air transport since there aren’t enough all-cargo planes to make up the gap. Outbound shipments from Shanghai to the U.S. are among the most heavily impacted, reflected by a 20% increase in rates over the past month.

The four Chinese carriers currently operating to the U.S. are Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Xiamen Airways. China Southern filed notice with the DOT that it planned to operate an extra flight between Guangzhou and Los Angeles beginning Aug. 20 and ending Oct. 25.

The DOT indicated it would reciprocate with further air access if Chinese authorities let in more flights operated by American carriers.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch. / Contact: [email protected]


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]