US aviation industry asks Biden to ban additional flights to China as Beijing’s policies hit American carriers

The US aviation industry recently asked the Joe Biden administration to block the approval of additional flights to and from China, saying Beijing’s existing “harmful anti-competitive policies” are affecting American airlines and workers.

Airlines for America (A4A), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA) sent a letter to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg last week (Apr 11) to this effect.

In the letter, the US aviation bodies said the competitive disadvantage is harmful to the approximately 315,000 workers employed by US passenger airlines that serve China.

“If the growth of the Chinese aviation market is allowed to continue unchecked and without concern for equality of access in the market, flights will continue to be relinquished to Chinese carriers at the expense of US workers and businesses,” according to the letter.

The letter came nearly two months after Washington had announced to allow Chinese airlines to further increase their direct passenger flights to the United States, in an effort to gradually restore post-pandemic aviation services.

The letter also explained how the Chinese government’s harmful anti-competitive policies are hurting the US airlines and their workers serving China.

According to the letter, “Following the outbreak of COVID-19, China unilaterally suspended the bilateral air services agreement with the US and effectively closed the market to US carriers. During this period, the Chinese implemented strict limits on market access, as well as imposing challenging rules affecting operations, customers and the treatment of our airline crew. 

“These actions demonstrated the clear need for the US government to establish a policy that protects US aviation workers, industry and air travelers,” the letter read.

“The anti-competitive relationship between the two countries is highlighted by the advantage Chinese airlines receive by continuing to access Russian airspace, while U.S. carriers stopped flying through Russian airspace at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022,” according to the letter.

“Even for those flights not operating through Russian airspace, there is still a competitive disadvantage with Chinese airlines enjoying certain protections stemming from the Chinese airline’s relationships with their government,” it added.

This allows Chinese airlines to operate irrespective of standard market conditions. Much like the current and previous administrations have addressed anti-competitive practices and overcapacity with China, we believe the concerns of US carriers today are no different,” the US aviation bodies wrote in the joint letter.

The joint letter signed by industry lobby group Airlines for America — whose members include American Airlines, Delta and United — and other unions representing aviation workers, including the Air Line Pilots Association, has urged the US administration to pause additional passenger flights between the US and China until US workers and businesses are guaranteed equality of access in the marketplace, free from the existing harmful anti-competitive policies of Beijing.

“We strongly urge the US government to pause additional flights until US workers and businesses are guaranteed equality of access in the marketplace without China’s existing damaging anti-competitive policies,” it mentioned in the letter, adding that “We ask the government to take the time to address these significant competitive issues and protect U.S. aviation workers, travelers and airlines.”


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