Avoiding Russian Airspace: Chinese Airlines Allowed to Fly to the US

Chinese airlines have been avoiding flying over Russian airspace in their newly approved flights to and from the United States.
"Illustration of an airplane, illustration of a flight. (SHUTTERSTOCK/Skycolors)"
"Illustration of an airplane, illustration of a flight. (SHUTTERSTOCK/Skycolors)"

In a recent development, Chinese airlines have been avoiding flying over Russian airspace in their newly approved flights to and from the United States. This information comes from FlightAware, a flight tracking website, as well as industry officials. Russia had previously banned US and other foreign airlines from flying over its airspace in retaliation for the US ban on Russian flights over the US in March 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. FlightAware records show that the recently approved Chinese flights by Washington did not fly over Russia, while previously approved US flights by Chinese airlines still utilized Russian airspace.

According to Reuters, on May 3, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced its approval for Chinese airlines to increase their US passenger services to 12 round trips per week, matching the number of flights allowed by Beijing for US carriers. Previously, Chinese airlines were only allowed eight weekly flights. When asked if the Biden administration had required Chinese airlines to avoid Russian airspace as a condition for approving these additional four flights, Assistant Secretary of State for Aviation and International Affairs Annie Petsonk declined to respond. Petsonk stated that the gradual increase to 12 flights between China and the United States represented a measurable pace that could be observed. It is worth noting that 12 weekly flights are just a fraction of the over 150 round trips allowed by each side prior to the restrictions imposed at the beginning of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "Certainly, there is great interest from both sides in moving forward," added Petsonk.

On May 18, the USDOT approved new weekly flights for Air China (601111.SS) from Beijing to New York, China Eastern (600115.SS) from Shanghai to Los Angeles, Xiamen Airlines' third weekly flight from Xiamen to Los Angeles, and China Southern's second weekly flight from Guangzhou to Los Angeles. The Xiamen and China Southern flights will both become effective on May 30. Operators from China could not be reached for immediate comment, and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond immediately.

In February, two US senators urged the Biden administration to prevent Chinese airlines from flying over Russia on US routes, which gave them advantages in fuel consumption and flight time. At that time, Airlines for America, representing major US carriers, commended the senators' push, considering the longstanding industry concerns regarding flights over Russia.

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