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Recently Approved Chinese Flights to the United States Are Avoiding Russian Airspace Despite Longer Flight Times

Recently Approved Chinese Flights to the United States Are Avoiding Russian Airspace Despite Longer Flight Times

Recently approved Chinese flights to the United States are avoiding Russian airspace despite the fact that the reroute can significantly increase flight times and fuel burn.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation marginally increased the number of weekly services that Chinese air carriers are allowed to operate between mainland China and the United States amidst speculation that the deal had been granted on condition that airlines avoided Russian airspace.

Unlike their U.S. rivals, Chinese airlines are not barred from flying through Russian airspace as a result of tit-for-tat sanctions imposed by Moscow. Some airlines have reportedly complained about the advantage that this situation hands to Chinese airlines and have been lobbying for restrictions to level the playing field.

Flights by Chinese airlines that were approved before May 2023 continue to fly over Russia, while the newly approved flights are skirting Russia. Officially, the order granting China more rights to fly to the United States did not attach any conditions on how these services were operated.

Last month, Chinese state-owned media said route restrictions would be an “unreasonable offer” that could not be accepted and that “the US doesn’t have the right to force airlines of other countries not to choose a particular route.”

Technically, there isn’t any legal way to force an airline to take a particular route to its destination, but Biden administration officials have remained tight-lipped over the talks they have had with their Chinese counterparts about resuming flights.

During the pandemic, China severely restricted flights from the United States, leading the DOT to mirror the restrictions on Chinese airlines. Since pandemic restrictions have been lifted, capacity is still much lower than 2019 levels.

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