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Positive signs for China, US direct flights

By Luo Wangshu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-24 10:45
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Beijing Daxing International Airport on Nov 19, 2022. [Photo/VCG]

Officials between two nations hopeful of improving civil aviation cooperation

Officials from China and the United States have exchanged views on promoting a substantial increase in direct flights and enhancing cooperation in various fields of civil aviation, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China on Wednesday.

China welcomes US civil aviation-related companies to operate and develop in China, and is willing to work together to create a better future for the global aviation industry, said Song Zhiyong, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, during a speech at a reception on Tuesday.

He stated that both China and the US should take the consensus and vision of the recent heads of state meeting in San Francisco as the fundamental principle.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said that he believed China-US civil aviation cooperation will have a successful future.

More than 100 representatives from China and the US, including officials and civil aviation companies such as Boeing attended a reception hosted by Burns at his residence for the China-US Aviation Cooperation Program on Tuesday.

The program, which began in 2004, is an important platform for exchanges and cooperation in the civil aviation field between China and the US.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of China-US flights has drastically reduced. Since May, China and the US have increased direct flights, with the last increase this month.

Since Nov 9, Chinese mainland and US carriers have been allowed to operate 70 weekly round-trip flights between the two locations, from 48 previously.

Prior to that, the airlines were allowed to make a total of 36 round-trip flights a week from Sept 1, with the number rising to 48 from Oct 29.

Although the number has increased, China-US air service is far from fully resumed.

In 2019, more than 300 round trips were operated every week between China and the US, according to Lin Zhijie, a civil aviation industry analyst.

After the increase this month, the number of China-US flights will be about 25 percent compared with the volume in 2019, he said.

Both countries have shown the willingness to promote cooperation in the field and increase the number of flights.

According to an order amendment released by the US Department of Transportation last month, the US would allow more Chinese airliners to operate direct flights between the two sides. The goal is to improve the environment for airline companies from China and the US to maintain "a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity", according to the document.

The US will continue ongoing and productive dialogue with the CAAC to facilitate a gradual, broader reopening of the air service market between both countries, the document said.

"The administration will continue to encourage and support Chinese and foreign airlines to resume international passenger flights, improving the international route network and supporting people movements between China and foreign countries to ensure stable foreign trade and investment," Liang Nan, director of the transport department of the CAAC, said at a news conference last month.

The new winter and spring civil aviation season in China started on Oct 29 and will end on March 30. During the season, China's international flights are expected to return to 70 percent of the volume seen in 2019.

Liang said that 13,004 international flights involving 65 countries are planned every week during the new season, but the number between China and the US has not yet been released.

Only a very small number of international passenger flights continued to operate during the pandemic. Data from the CAAC showed that in August 2021, the number of flights to and from China was about 2 percent of the volume recorded in 2019.

The number of international flights has risen gradually since January, after China optimized its response measures to COVID-19 and promoted the resumption of cross-border air travel.

The latest data showed that from Oct 16 to 22, a total of 7,750 international passenger flights operated, about 51 percent of the volume before the pandemic. Those flights involved 61 countries, according to the administration.

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