How Delta Air Lines Plans To Resume China Flights (With A Stop)

Filed Under: Delta

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:

US airlines were banned from flying to China until recently

Bottom line

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…

  1. Due to Chinese authority’s policy, many Chinese are stuck overseas. They are buying all the tickets to China, and the price can be $4000+ in economy.

  2. I expect it’s people returning to their jobs in China who left at CNY or during the pandemic. If I had the choice between the US and China right now I’d be on the first plane.

  3. And up until now, US airlines are not even allowed to operate one weekly flight to China. Airlines can only operate one weekly flight if they had a flight to China in mid-March. All US airlines cancelled their flights before March.

  4. It’s rich Chinese who fled when the pandemic struck looking to go back; also many Chinese international students who want to return home now that the semester is over.

    I thought South Korea had a pretty strict quarantine policy for people who arrived from abroad as well, no?

  5. Chinese students have been paying thousands of dollars to return home, so makes sense these flights would be full or close to full.

    Also, not sure where to ask this, but given that there isn’t exactly a ton of stuff to write right now, any chance of going back to finish some of the trip reports that never got the full treatment? As an example, you wrote a “Impressions of Air France 787 Business Class” article in 2019 that was hinting towards the full trip report, but I don’t think you ever actually did the full trip report.

  6. The article doesn’t mention current ban on non-China passport holders entering the country.

  7. You probably don’t know how desperate many Chinese students are trying to return home. I’ve seen all kinds of itineraries posted online, and many of those involved three to four connections with a price tag of thousands of dollars. A large number of these students are not even aviation geeks in the first place. So it should not be surprising to see many of your searched inventories have already been booked

  8. @MAGA 2020

    Lol don’t feel the need to speak for all of us…not all of us on here get triggered so easily by a comment made in passing.

  9. Stay tuned. Trump is holding a China press conference on Friday. If Twitter doesn’t censor him. Or is the word censure?

  10. At first I thought they were only going to operate one continuing flight from Seoul to Shanghai to consolidate passengers, but based on what everyone’s saying there must be demand for two planes.

  11. That door has been swinging for a long time. I left the US in 2013 and haven never regretted that decision, and besides, my America wife would never let us go back even if I wanted to, she’s very attached to affordable healthcare and being much less at risk of being gunned down in the street.

  12. @Laurel

    When entering South Korea, Korean nationals without symptoms must self-quarantine for 2 weeks, and foreigners are put into quarantine facilities for 2 weeks with $100 charged each day.

    However, those who visit South Korea for official business are exempted from the quarantine and this exemption rule’s applied to flight crews as well.

  13. I don’t really get why they don’t just put people on Korean Air from ICN-China. Why does Delta need to fly it?

  14. @Joe domestic travel in Australia has not opened up. The only states open to interstate visitors are NSW (Sydney) and Melbourne (Victoria). Currently only citizens and residents are allowed into Australia and even those people get a mandatory 2 week quarantine at a hotel, which is paid for by the Australian Federal government.

  15. Many reasons those flights are sold out. Many people just bought multiple tickets in order to secure even one single flight seat to return to China from the US. The Ys are so expensive that I could even use these equivalent amount of money to purchase EK F to the US. The flights are so profitable that even the flight outbound to the US carrying no passengers, it’s still okay. Other airlines that was not approved to fly on those routes yet, it is a great opportunity to get some cash for sure, then most likely those tickets would be cancelled at the end.

    Chinese side has extremely strict rules that only one flight per week from one airline on a single route was allowed to fly to China (as a result of the extremely strict rule to quarantine everyone for 14 days in a hotel), that requires massive amount of work, so there are only very few flights approved to fly back to China. On the other side, students/tourists/families struck in the US were struggling to return to China for various of reasons: the dorm was closed, virus goes out of control here: many Chinese parents also wants their kids to be back as they worried about their safety, visa expired, etc. The persons who purchased the tickets were not rich, just regular people.

  16. When will civilised countries quarantine the filthy US is my question. They elected a man who exposed them to a disaster in the names of commerce and freedom and there are hordes of disease-ridden kids (in the name of antivax freedom) running loose. It’s past time for trash-America to pay the piper.

    Fucking seppos…

  17. @Laurel
    South Korea has 2 week quarantine for anyone (regardless of nationals) from outside Korea. However transfers (airside only) are allowed without restrictions.

  18. According to a just released email from the Beijing Embassy, the CAAC is continuing restrictions called the 5-1 policy until June 30th. Delta appears to have already adjusted their schedule unofficially, tickets are only available except for Saturday the 6th and 13th from PVG > ICN > SEA, although SEA > PVG is still absent from the booking screen. PVG > DTW all fare buckets have just gone unavailable for the first 2 weeks of june. I don’t see any dailies happening from the 18th onward inbound or outbound.

    @Jay That transfer policy is correct for inbound from any country besides China. However China > ICN > 3rd country requires a visa for most countries. USA still has a visa waiver, but for example Chinese need some kind of Korean visa in their passport to be able to transit to a 3rd country. My wife unfortunately can’t fly with Delta because it will stop in Incheon, so we are splitting up to get to LAX. She’s going to eat the $3500 for a non-stop from Guangzhou, and I’m going to fly with my cat a Delta route the same day.

  19. United is holding about 100 seats on 773s and about 70 on 789s. That said, UA857 is “oversold” by almost 50 so there may not be many open seats when the flight leaves, if the flight leaves.

  20. Delta’s booking system seems to have many problems these days. It will show empty and available seats on many flights, but then won’t allow you to pick them. And these are not the seats X-ed out for distancing. The phone app seems especially broken, but even the full website has this problem.

    But if you call to ask for assistance, a recording tells you to hang up if your concern does not involve a trip within the next 72 hours. And that’s on the elite Diamond Medallion hotline.

    How is Delta going to revive its business if passengers can’t book tickets?

  21. Many travelers were stranded during the months of February thru now. Remember, it was China’s biggest holiday of the year where many people travel, nationals and expats. They still have return tickets that they have not been able to use. They have been rescheduling their flights due to the restrictions. That is why almost all flights are booked up in June and availability will be slim into July. All of this may be pushed further into the future if flights to China remain restricted after June 15th.

  22. @Ben ( Lucky)….. WAIT a Minute. Whats going on here ? Re. @ EBWaa; has the outfit that you contracted with to run your commenting guidelines gone AWOL ? I mean this persons F—— language and snide politico remarks are they really relevant to travel and aviation ? Wow . Standards here are dropping here like travel bookings.

  23. The demand is huge, students, visitors, 9000 usd economy + 15000 usd business one way, many can’t afford that ticket have to wait.

    Rich people? They fly private jet, ~35k New York to Shanghai

  24. US set to blocked Chinese airlines from flying to U.S. as response to not permitting flights from U.S. carriers.

  25. I have the flight the Delta flight from USA to Korea to Shanghai on June 16. Anyway of finding out if that flight will be allowed or not? Meaning, it doesn’t sound like Delta is controlling if it will or not, so contacting them isn’t helpful. Just curious if anyone else has another source.

  26. Perhaps Delta should have kept its hub in Tokyo and kept its Japanese flight attendants.

  27. UA is currently doing a similar to stop in GUM for cargo flights between LAX and PVG. Would love to see any US airline, especially UA, use Guam for a stop on there passenger flights, and hope the legs could be sold individually.

  28. @Leo: Blame subsidies. Supposedly ex-Gov Eddie Calvo and the Guam politicians wouldn’t offer enough subsidies to keep Delta from withdrawing from Guam. That was absurd since they even had a locally issued credit card. It’s also tragic that the US Government doesn’t subsidize additional flights from American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, and those independent islands in the region to promote US foreign policy in the Pacific. Delta and United should both utilize Guam for connections to Asia and the South Pacific. But like I said Guam’s politicians didn’t implement subsidies. Subsidies work. That’s how Indianapolis got Delta to fly daily to Paris.

  29. Great for Delta. I fly DTW-PVG route couple of times a year in J. Can’t wait to fly the route to PKX, they were supposed to move out of PEK in March.
    I don’t know why Chinese government isn’t allowing foreigners to come in. Their quarantine process was done so well and can revive many of hotels in the area. I’d even pay the government for all the logistical support (bus to hotels, employee at the airport,etc) on top of the hotel cost.

  30. Whoo, for a country with more than TWO MILLION tested affected, is it a shame for Lucky to comment that “though it seems that’s only out of an abundance of caution”?
    Or you just do not have shame?

  31. Am I the only one not seeing anything close to the $4000 one-way prices to China some are quoting here?

    A simple search on Google flights is showing one-way tickets from LAX under $500 (2 connections) and under $900 for a one-way connection in Hong Kong.

  32. @Voldoo

    You can’t. The flight to China is restricted, not everyday (one time per week most).
    Also, HK is not allow transit to Mainland China now.

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