United Airlines May Re-Start China Flights

While the U.S. has restricted arrivals from China to U.S. residents, and China has limited entry into the country to their own residents, there remain a handful of exceptions to these rules.

China has reported its progress fighting COVID-19 as being nearly complete, with no domestic spread cases most days. That may be an exaggeration. China has been paying local jurisdictions for zero reported cases, which on the one hand encourages them to take steps to limit COVID-19 spread but also encourages them to hide cases.

Nonetheless, there’s probably less risk flying to China than to Europe and there have been flights to the U.S. by Chinese airlines in recent weeks. So it should come as no surprise that while demand is limited, it’s growing, and United Airlines is considering a once a week return to Shanghai.

We can expect that any United Airlines flight to Shanghai would be from San Francisco. Apple has historically purchased 50 business class seats a day on this route from United, China is beginning to restart its industry, and United wants to retain its position as the strongest U.S. carrier with flights to mainland China.

Shanghai Pudong Airport

Delta, through its partnership with Shanghai-based China Eastern, arguably has a stronger China business by extension. United and Delta have continued to operate cargo-only flights between Chicago and Shanghai and Detroit and Shanghai, respectively.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Does anyone at that airline have common sense at all? AA dodged a bullet by dumping Kirby. No one business or otherwise is going to China. First they will have to quarantine for 14 days when then get there and likely when they get back. Second, CHINA LIED (so is Russia and Iran) about the numbers. Yes I believe the spread has slowed but I also believe (as do many others now in the scientific community) that they had up to 8 times the number of cases and deaths.

    Is United that desperate? Seems they are.

  2. Didn’t UA move major and some routine maintenance on their planes to China? Cut expenses by off-shoring this years ago. Might explain why the past few years had so many technical and maintenance issues.

    Kirby would like this route back up.

  3. Also the cargo demand to China must be huge. Even if they only filled half the seats on the plane the belly would be full of cargo.

  4. United may want to go to Shanghai but will the Chinese government allow them in? They appear to be keeping people out and require that people coming in from outside china to quarantine for 2 weeks before they are allowed to do biz

  5. Just who could take this flight round trip, though? China is barring non-Chinese nationals from entry, while the U.S. is barring from entry non-U.S. citizens/green-card holders who’ve visited China within the past 14 days. And China does not permit dual citizenship.

    The only eligible round-trip passengers I can think of are U.S.-Taiwanese dual nationals holding a Mainland travel permit. Taiwan permits dual citizenship, and China considers Taiwan part of itself.

  6. UA is already operating cargo service to PVG. If they go back with pax service, it’ll be because there is demand to start flying people again… and it won’t be planeloads of tourists on sub-$400 tickets (yet).

    We aren’t talking about a relaunch tomorrow, but by late April or May, let’s hope conditions in San Francisco and China are improved such that this is reasonable.

  7. I’m pretty sure Apple won’t be buying 50 business class seats a day on that route for a while. If that company can’t figure out video conferencing, there isn’t much hope for most of the rest of us thrust now into working from home.

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