Skies of Concern: US Airlines Urge Biden Administration to Halt Extra US-China Flights

WASHINGTON -- Major U.S. airlines and their unions are urging the Biden administration to halt the approval of any further flights connecting the United States and China, citing what they describe as "anti-competitive" measures imposed by China on American carriers. The airlines and unions voiced their concerns on Thursday, highlighting China's closure of its market to U.S. carriers at the onset of the pandemic and the lingering regulations impacting American operations and airline personnel.

In a joint letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, signatories including the CEO of Airlines for America and the presidents of the Air Line Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association (representing crews at American Airlines), and the Association of Flight Attendants underscored the necessity for the U.S. government to formulate policies safeguarding U.S. aviation workers, the industry, and air travelers alike.

Despite a gradual increase in flights between China and the U.S., the figures remain notably below pre-pandemic levels. The Biden administration recently expanded the weekly round trips permitted for Chinese airlines from 35 to 50, effective March 31, following assurances from China's aviation authority to advocate for a surge in U.S. carrier flights.

U.S. airlines argue that Chinese counterparts enjoy an unfair advantage by utilizing shorter routes through Russian airspace, inaccessible to American carriers since Russia's incursion into Ukraine over two years ago. Moreover, they assert that Chinese state-owned airlines benefit from certain protections granted by the Chinese government, exacerbating the competitive disparity.

Highlighting the risk of losing routes to Chinese carriers without equitable access to China's aviation market, the U.S. industry groups emphasized in their correspondence the imperative of addressing these disparities for the benefit of American carriers, workers, and passengers.

In conclusion, the appeal from U.S. airlines and their unions to the Biden administration underscores the urgency of addressing the perceived inequities in the aviation market between the United States and China. As flights between the two nations gradually resume amid the ongoing pandemic, concerns regarding anti-competitive practices and unequal access persist. With American carriers at risk of losing ground to their Chinese counterparts, a concerted effort is needed to establish policies that ensure fair competition, protect aviation workers, and promote the interests of both industries and passengers. The outcome of these discussions will not only shape the future of U.S.-China air travel but also have broader implications for the global aviation landscape.