Airlines ready to spread their wings again

In May, a woman from Beijing, surnamed Shang, traveled to San Francisco on her first trip to the United States in three years. She and her family had previously spent more than eight years in the US.

Shang began searching for a ticket to San Francisco in January, when China optimized its COVID-19 response measures, booking her trip the following month.

"I meant to book the journey earlier, but when I started to search for a ticket, none were available. Choices were very limited," she said.

Shang was a frequent global traveler before the pandemic, but she said air ticket prices are now higher and the number of direct flights to the US is limited.

"Some of my friends from the US complained about the prices. They said it was too expensive to go home," Shang said, adding that she is aware that more direct flights between the two countries will resume soon. "This is good news, as it is tiring to make transit stops."

In May, a flight that Shang took from Beijing to Hong Kong was severely delayed, and she missed her connection to San Francisco. Although a flight she eventually took from Beijing to San Francisco via Tokyo was on time, she found it exhausting having to travel for 20 hours with her 6-year-old daughter.

"I'm looking forward to more direct flights," Shang said.

The US Department of Transportation said on Aug 11 that Chinese airlines could make 18 round-trip flights to the US a week, up from 12, starting Sept 1. By the end of October, the number of such flights will rise to 24 per week.

From Sept 1, Chinese and US airlines will be allowed to make a total of 36 round-trip flights a week, with the number rising to 48 from Oct 29.

By then, the number of passenger flights between the two countries will have doubled, offering far greater convenience for travelers.

It will be the second increase in such flights since August 2020. The first was in May, when the US Department of Transportation said the number of direct flights between the two countries would rise to 12 per week — matching the number of those operated by Chinese carriers.

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