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US, China Reciprocate On More Airline Access

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A white United Airlines planes takes off into bright blue sky. United is adding more flights between San Francisco and Shanghai.

Shippers will have eight additional flights per week with coveted cargo space on the busy China-U.S. route after the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday permitted four Chinese carriers to double the number of round-trip flights they operate. 

The U.S. decision came in response to Chinese aviation authorities on Monday authorizing United Airlines Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: UAL) and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) to increase service frequency from two times weekly to four times weekly. 

The two governments have gradually eased access to each other's airlines after a dispute over flight limitations and containing the spread of the coronavirus. The DOT was prepared in early June to ban the Chinese carriers after China wouldn't allow flights from the U.S.

United Airlines immediately announced it will operate four weekly flights between San Francisco and Shanghai Pudong International Airport via Seoul, South Korea, beginning Sept. 4 with Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft. United resumed twice-weekly service between those cities in early July

And Delta said it would add one weekly flight from Detroit and Seattle each to Shanghai beginning Aug. 24. 

The withdrawal of most passenger schedules has created tight supply for cargo owners that depend on air transport since there aren't enough all-cargo planes to make up the gap. Outbound shipments from Shanghai to the U.S. are among the most heavily impacted, reflected by a 20% increase in rates over the past month.

The four Chinese carriers currently operating to the U.S. are Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Xiamen Airways. China Southern filed notice with the DOT that it planned to operate an extra flight between Guangzhou and Los Angeles beginning Aug. 20 and ending Oct. 25.

The DOT indicated it would reciprocate with further air access if Chinese authorities let in more flights operated by American carriers.

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