US airlines ask Biden to ban additional flights to China, cite America’s ‘competitive disadvantage’

Major US airlines and aviation unions urged the Biden administration to pause approvals of additional flights between China and the United States, citing ongoing “anti-competitive policies of the Chinese government.”

The competitive disadvantage is harmful to the approximately 315,000 workers employed by US passenger airlines that serve China,lobbying group Airlines for America — which includes American Airlines, Delta, and United — and unions wrote in a letter to Secretary of StateAntony Blinkenand Transportation SecretaryPete Buttigieg published Thursday.

If the growth of the Chinese aviation market is allowed to continue unchecked and without concern for equality of access in the market, flights will continue to be relinquished to Chinese carriers at the expense of US workers and businesses, added the note, which was also signed off on by the Air Line Pilots Association.

Chinas Foreign Ministry said on Friday that increasing direct flights was the consensus reached when Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden met in San Francisco in November, according to CNN.

It [boosting flights] will help the two peoples strengthen exchanges and enhance mutual understanding, the ministry added.

In February, the Transportation Department said Chinese passenger airlines could boost weekly round-trip US flights to 50 starting on March 31, up from the current 35, about a third of pre-pandemic levels. US carriers were authorized as well to fly 50 flights per week but are currently not using all those flights.

The figure is far from the 150 weekly round-trip flights both China and the US made between the two countries in 2019.

Separately, Rep. Mike Gallagher, the chair of the House select committee onChina, and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, urged the Biden administration in a separate letter Wednesday not to approve more flights untilChinaabides “by its existing bilateral agreement, and passenger demand begins to recover.”


American carriers argued in the letter that the nation’s “anti-competitive disadvantage” was imposed by China’s pandemic restrictions, which “included strict limits on market access and exceedingly challenging operational, customer and crew treatment rules.”

This disadvantage worsened in 2022, when “US carriers rightfully stopped flying through Russian airspace at the start of Russias unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in March 2022.”

“Chinese airlines, however, have continued to use Russian airspace, providing them an artificial competitive, cost and operational advantage that should be eliminated as part of any bilateral negotiations,” the two-page letter noted.

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Airlines for America declared that US citizens traveling between America and China “should not unknowingly be subject to the risks associated with traveling through Russian airspace, and this practice should end.”

Having to avoid Russian airspace, however, adds time and costs to flights, CNN reported.

Airlines for America has reported that the lack of access to Russian airspace has cost the US airline industry $2 billion in annual market share.

But because Chinese carriers don’t change course, they can charge less for certain flights.

The lobbying group said that there is a “clear need for the US government to establish a policy that protects US aviation workers, industry and air travelers.”