Published: 10:38, April 2, 2024 | Updated: 10:40, April 2, 2024
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More flights take off under bilateral pact
By ​Mingmei Li in New York

Airliners, passengers applaud deal as China, US agree to increase frequency

An Air China plane takes off from Beijing Daxing International Airport. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

As passengers from Beijing land at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, travelers from New York are checking in their baggage.

On Sunday, Air China operated the first round-trip flight from Beijing to New York after China and the United States reached an agreement to increase the number of Chinese passenger flights. Chinese airlines can now operate 50 weekly flights, up from the previous 35.

Both countries are making efforts to gradually restore air travel by increasing the frequency of direct passenger flights, which were interrupted by COVID-19.

The US Department of Transportation had said it was in talks with the Civil Aviation Administration of China about a "gradual" resumption of bilateral air services.

Several Chinese passenger airlines have announced more round-trip flights between major cities starting March 31.

China Eastern Airlines will add two weekly flights from Shanghai to Los Angeles and one weekly flight from Shanghai to San Francisco. China Southern Airlines will introduce one new weekly flight from Guangzhou to Los Angeles, followed by two new weekly flights from Guangzhou to San Francisco.

Air China is adding one more round-trip flight from Beijing to Los Angeles, and adding two more direct round-trip flights between Beijing and New York to meet the demand for passenger travel.

Upon the launch of the additional flights, the seat occupancy rate reached more than 90 percent.

"I haven't been there (China) in such a long time because of the pandemic, but I usually go quite often," Don Rad, 61, told China Daily.

"I intend to go to China more often, and this flight goes in Beijing and (connected flight in China) then goes into Shanghai, that's a pretty good convenience for me."

Rad said he would like to see more flights from the East Coast in the US to more cities in China.

"I love China, and I love the people of China. They've always been nice to me and vice versa," he said, adding that more flights will contribute to more understanding between people of China and the US.

Wang Zhiyong, Air China New York office's general manager, told China Daily in a recent interview: "With the addition of these two new flights, our airline will now operate five flights per week, making travel between the two regions more convenient."

"Flying direct from New York to Beijing does help my travel plans overall. I only had to take an hour's flight from Toronto to here, and then that's a direct flight," Mary Grace Liu told China Daily. "Straight to China is very helpful."

Visiting list

Liu is traveling with her husband to Beijing and spending about two weeks visiting her husband's family in Beijing, and later traveling to Xi'an for a few days. "The Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, pretty much all the tourist places," she said.

Liu visited Shanghai five years ago, and she said she was very excited about her second visit.

Operating the first flight between China and the US after the increase in the number of flights, Air China is strengthening its operational support from the ground to the air.

"We will closely monitor developments in China-US aviation relations and take additional steps to expand flight operations. This commitment reflects our ongoing dedication to fostering bilateral economic, trade and cultural ties between our two nations," stated Air China in a news release.

"As cultural and tourism exchanges between China and the US increase, tourists are eagerly anticipating the addition of more flights, especially direct flights," Wang said.

US students will begin their summer vacations sooner, in May, while Chinese students will have their vacations in July and August, Wang said. Adding more flights can provide more seats and greater convenience for travelers from both countries during the summer vacation, he said.