Delta restarts direct air service to China

©Global Times

A Delta Airlines Airbus A350 aircraft waits to take off at Beijing Capital International Airport on July 25, 2018. Photos: VCG

US-based Delta Airlines has officially resumed direct flights between China and the US, instead of routing flights with a stop in South Korea, making the Delta the only American carrier to operate nonstop flights between the two countries.

Delta said on Wednesday that it will operate nonstop flights twice per week, linking Shanghai to Seattle and Detroit, effective immediately.

Direct flights will be operated by Delta Airlines' latest passenger aircraft and will provide the highest level of disinfection and cleaning standards for a more convenient and comfortable air travel experience, said Wong Hong, president of greater China and Singapore for Delta.

Delta suspended flights between the US and China in February due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it resumed flights from the US to China in June and July, with a stop in Seoul.

Two other US-based carriers - American and United - are pausing plans to operate nonstop flights to Shanghai from the US, and they will instead route the flights with a stop in South Korea, CNBC reported on Wednesday, citing sources.

Direct flights remain mostly suspended to reduce potential losses and avoid the risk of being temporarily suspended if an imported case is detected on a flight, industry experts said.

"Due to changes in operating conditions, we adjusted service between San Francisco and Shanghai to now include a stop in Seoul, South Korea for a crew change as we did earlier this year," United Airlines told the Global Times via email on Wednesday, in response to the change.

Wang Yanan, an industry expert, told the Global Times that it does not matter if it is a direct flight or with a stop in Seoul, as long as China is involved in the route, the flight must be approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, especially against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

Wang also expressed concern that against the backdrop of the pandemic, any stopover will increase the risk of the route, as the number of people in contact with the plane also increases.

Although China has contained the pandemic and resumed production, the US, under the Trump administration, has seen a further deterioration of the outbreak, which continuously casts a shadow of uncertainty over the flights between the two countries.

Opening more flights between China and the US is driven by demand for people-to-people interaction, which is particularly needed against the pandemic fallout, Zhu Qingyu, aviation market analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"It is still hard to say if there will be more direct flights, as it also depends on the containment of the pandemic in the US," said Zhu.

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