On May 18, 2023, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) approved four new weekly Air China and China Eastern flights between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, bringing the total number of weekly US-China flights to twelve.
According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, unlike already established US-bound Chinese carriers’ flights, newly approved Air China and China Eastern flights are apparently avoiding Russian airspace altogether and are not overflying Russian Federation.
Earlier this year, Biden administration was urged to ban US-bound Chinese airlines from passing over Russia, since it gave them unfair advantage against US carriers that are banned from overflying the country.
The proposed ban was the result of lobbying by US air carriers, who are losing up to $2 billion annually in market share to US-bound foreign competitors, since Chinese and Indian airlines have enjoyed a boom in business, as they can fly the shortest route without the need to circumvent Russia’s vast territory.
The United States and the European Union closed their airspace to Russian aircraft in 2022 as part of sanctions imposed on Russia after it’s brutal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine. In return, Russia retaliated by barring US and European airlines from flying over its territory. Chinese airlines were not affected by the restrictions and continued to use Russian airspace.
US carriers are now forced to fly longer distances with dozens of empty seats, to make their planes light enough to avoid refueling. Over a dozen planned new air routes from the United States to Mumbai, Tokyo, Seoul and other cities were reportedly put on hold and are being taken up by competitors.