- Delta and United announced their first flights to China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Both airlines cancelled future flights to the Chinese mainland on February 6. Delta's first flight, from Seattle, departed on Thursday, while United's is scheduled for July 8.
- The flights come following weeks of tension between the US and China over passenger flights resuming .
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For the first time in half a year, US airlines are gearing up to fly to China.
On Thursday, Delta operated its first flight to China since February 6 . The flight was set to operate from Seattle to Shanghai via Seoul, South Korea. At press time, the plane was en route from Seoul for the second segment of the flight.
Delta plans to start the route with twice-weekly service using Airbus A350 jets. In July, the airline will move one of those weekly flights to depart from Detroit, while keeping the other at Seattle. Both flights will continue to operate via Seoul.
The stop in Seoul is designed to prevent crewmembers from having to disembark or lay over in China, due to the risk of potential quarantine requirements, according to The Points Guy .
Also this week, United announced that it would resume its first flight to China since early February, starting on July 8. The airline will start with two flights a week between San Francisco and Shanghai, using Boeing 777-300ER jets.
Before travel demand to China cratered during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, United operated five daily flights between Shanghai and its hubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Newark.
Both airlines said they would resume flights to Seoul as well. United said it plans to reinstate some previously cancelled flights to Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong; and Singapore.
"United's service to mainland China has been a point of pride for our employees and customers for more than 30 years," Patrick Quayle, United's head of international routes and networks, said in a press release. "Resuming service to Shanghai from the United States is a significant step in rebuilding our international network."
United also flew to Beijing before the coronavirus pandemic.
American Airlines, which also operated flights to China before the pandemic, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The return of China flights comes following weeks of sniping between the US and China adding new obstacles for each other's airlines.
- Airlines face a years-long challenge to rebuild global route maps and networks that were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic
- American Airlines will start selling middle seats again as airlines bet that customers won't care about social distancing in flight
- Airline workers are asking Congress for another $32 billion bailout