The US Transportation Department has announced an agreement with China’s aviation authority to double the number of flights between the countries. The agreement allows US airlines to double the number of flights to China to eight per week, while each of the four Chinese carriers currently serving the US can now increase their frequencies from once weekly to twice weekly.

The agreement indicates a further easing of tensions between the two countries over the number of flights by US airlines into Chinese markets that flared during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, US airlines had pulled out of the Chinese market. As air travel resumed in March, the Civil Aviation Authority of China blocked US airlines from returning to their Chinese routes. In response, the Trump administration had threatened to ban flights by Chinese carriers, prompting China’s authorities to reopen a limited number of routes in June.

This week’s announcement will allow both US carriers currently operating between the US and China, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, to double their current number of flights to Shanghai.

Delta has said it will add one weekly flight from Detroit and another from Seattle to Shanghai, via Seoul, starting next week. United Airlines said it will increase its flights to China to four a week from San Francisco to Shanghai beginning next month, a move the carrier had reportedly been contemplating for some months.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines are the four Chinese carriers that currently serve the US. Under the new agreement, each will be allowed to double the number of their weekly flights.

"This aggregate level of service is equivalent to the total number of flights now permitted by the Chinese aviation authorities for US carriers," according to a DOT statement.

"The Order also indicates our willingness to further revisit our action should the Chinese aviation authorities adjust their policies to bring about the necessary improved situation for US carriers in which both they and the Chinese carriers could fully exercise their bilateral rights," the statement continued.

US Department of Transportation