Major US airlines stopped offering passenger flights to China around the beginning of February. Since then we’ve seen them operate cargo flights there, but that’s it. Well, it looks like Delta Air Lines is about to become the first major US airline to restart passenger flights to China as of later this week.
Delta will fly to Shanghai via Seoul
Delta Air Lines will be resuming flights to China as of June 25, 2020. The airline will initially fly to China out of Seattle, and then out of Detroit. These flights are now bookable.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are still significant restrictions on travel between the US and China. For example, the US is restricting entry from China to those who are from the US, their family, etc.
Delta’s Seattle to Shanghai flight
The flight from Seattle will operate with the following schedule as of June 25, westbound on Thursdays and eastbound on Saturdays:
DL287 Seattle to Seoul to Shanghai departing 11:30PM arriving 4:45AM (+2 days)
DL288 Shanghai to Seoul to Seattle departing 9:15AM arriving 7:15AM
The Seattle flight will be operated by an A350-900 through August 1, 2020, and as of that date will be operated by an A330-900neo.
Delta’s Detroit to Shanghai flight
The flight from Detroit will operate with the following schedule as of July 1, westbound on Fridays and eastbound on Sundays:
DL287 Detroit to Seoul to Shanghai departing 7:00PM arriving 12:15AM (+2 days)
DL288 Shanghai to Seoul to Detroit departing 4:45AM arriving 8:20AM
The Detroit flight will be operated by an A350-900.
Why do Delta’s Shanghai flights operate via Seoul?
What’s the motivation for the stop in Seoul Incheon in both directions? The airline won’t be able to sell seats exclusively between Seoul and Shanghai, so it’s my understanding that this comes down to crewing.
For now Delta doesn’t want crews laying over in China (apparently due to strict quarantine rules), though it seems that’s only out of an abundance of caution. Therefore crews will:
- Fly from Detroit/Seattle to Seoul and then have a layover
- Fly from Seoul to Shanghai to Seoul and then have a layover
- Fly from Seoul back to Detroit/Seattle
That’s a rather rough trip, all things considered, especially as the crews will seemingly have to “sit” in Shanghai for four to five hours.
Delta will shortly be resuming flights to China
When will American & United resume China flights?
As of now:
- United Airlines’ schedule shows Newark and San Francisco to Shanghai flights as of late July, though the schedule doesn’t seem finalized
- American Airlines’ schedule shows Los Angeles to Shanghai flights resuming as of late October, though the schedule is subject to change
United plans to resume China flights in late July
The US & China have been engaged in aviation battle
As I’ve covered before, there has been quite a spat between the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC). The two countries have a bilateral aviation agreement, so all service needs to be mutually agreed upon.
Since March, the CAAC has had a policy essentially blocking all US air carriers from resuming passenger flights between the United States and China, despite the fact that Chinese airlines could maintain (limited) service between the two countries. Chinese authorities were essentially created an arbitrary rule and started enforcing it.
Fortunately this has now been resolved. US airlines are allowed to operate up to four weekly flights each to one city in China. For more on this entire saga, see these posts:
- In early June the DOT announced that Chinese airlines would be banned from flying to the US out of reciprocity
- A day later the CAAC loosened restrictions on US airlines flying to China, but it wasn’t enough
- Since the CAAC wasn’t giving US airlines the service they wanted, the DOT demanded that Chinese airlines also reduce flying to the US
- Eventually an agreement was reached whereby airlines could operate four weekly flights between the countries
US airlines were banned from flying to China until recently
Delta will be resuming flights later this week between the US and Shanghai, after these routes have been suspended for several months. Interestingly United is taking a bit more time to return to China, while American is taking several more months to resume these flights, at least as of now.
Keep in mind that Delta owns a stake in China Eastern, which is based in Shanghai, and that might partly explain why it’s the first of the “big three” US airlines to return to China.
I’ll be curious to see how US airline service to China progresses over time…