China as of Jan. 8 has lifted many of its Covid-19 restrictions and reopened its borders after nearly completely closing them three years ago. This past Sunday, air passengers could arrive in the country without quarantining. But that doesn't mean flights from U.S. carriers to China will resume at pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.
BTN reviewed information pulled Jan. 10 from aviation data provider Cirium and noted that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines had added China-bound flights to begin in March with daily service, but when reached for confirmation, only Delta noted that the schedule still was accurate.
Delta will resume daily flights between Detroit and each Beijing Daxing and Shanghai on March 25, according to the carrier. Delta on that date also will resume daily flights between Seattle and each Beijing Daxing and Shanghai. The Beijing flights will operate with Airbus A350-900 aircraft, and the Shanghai flights will operate with A359-900 aircraft.
American will continue to operate twice-weekly service between Dallas/Fort Worth and Shanghai, but on March 26 it will eliminate the stop at Incheon International Airport in South Korea and fly direct, according to a carrier spokesperson. American had planned to increase to daily flights on the route on that date but instead has pushed that start to Oct. 29. A daily Seattle-Shanghai route, which was announced pre-pandemic but never operated, also has been delayed from March 26 to Oct. 29. Its Dallas-Beijing route had been scheduled to restart on March 26, but that, too, won't resume until Oct. 29.
United's schedule on Cirium showed that it was to resume flights in March between Newark and each Hong Kong, Beijing Capital and Shanghai; Dulles and Beijing Capital; Chicago and each Beijing Capital and Shanghai; and San Francisco and Chengdu, Hong Kong, Beijing Capital and Shanghai. The carrier did not confirm any of those flights. Instead, a spokesperson provided the following statement: "Flights between the United States and mainland China continue to be governed by U.S. [Department of Transportation] orders called Part 212/213 that restrict the amount of flying between the U.S. and China. For the time being, United is allowed to fly four weekly frequencies between the United States and mainland China, and we will adjust service accordingly if this allotment changes."
New, Ongoing Restrictions and Recommendations
After China relaxed its Covid policies and began to allow travel again, some countries, including the United States and several European Union nations, have instituted requirements that any person traveling from China, Hong Kong or Macau, test negative for Covid-19 or provide proof of vaccination.
Arrival concerns center around the surge in Covid-19 cases in China since the country lifted its "zero-Covid" policies. The country's National Health Commission on Dec. 25 also announced it no longer would release daily pandemic information, but several reports cite a substantial outbreak.
Industry suppliers and organizations, including the International Air Transport Association, have criticized the new and continued restrictions, as has the Chinese government.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration also has extended its existing Covid-19 vaccination requirement for international visitors to April 10.
Separately, the World Health Organization this week also encouraged countries to recommend that travelers on long-haul flights should wear masks, according to Reuters, as the XBB.1.5 subvariant continues to spread. This variant is the most transmissible omicron subvariant detected so far and has accounted for 27.6 percent of Covid-19 cases in the United States for the week ended Jan. 7, according to the report.