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Weekly round trips for Chinese airlines to US raised to 50

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The Department of Transportation is increasing the number of weekly round-trip flights of Chinese airlines to the U.S. next month in anticipation of the summer season.

Number of flights: The Transportation Department announced on Monday that there will be 50 weekly round-trip flights to and from China starting March 31, up from the current 35 weekly round trips approved in November 2023. According to the department, this marks "a significant step forward in further normalization" of the U.S.-China market ahead of the summer traffic season.

The department said it has also started dialogue with China’s aviation regulator for the implementation of a roadmap "to provide for a gradual, broader reopening of the U.S.-China air services market and a phased and predictable return to the capacity entitlements."

Catch up: The U.S. imposed travel restrictions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to curb its spread, including suspending all flights to China. Prior to the pandemic, there were around 150 weekly round-trip flights from both countries.

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Restrictions eased up over the years. Last May, the Transportation Department confirmed to CNN that it had increased weekly direct flights to and from China to 12 from eight after the Chinese government relaxed its COVID-19 policies. Those numbers rose to 18 weekly flights on Sept. 1, followed by 24 on Oct. 29 before the current 35 weekly flights.

What China is saying: Commenting on the recent development, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said it was "glad to see the positive progress" made on increasing direct passenger flights between the two countries. Additionally, the office said it is working to ease cross-border travel and “promote people-to-people exchange" between China and the U.S.

Why it matters: Before the pandemic, as many as 3 million Chinese travelers had been coming to the U.S. annually, Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo said in August. Those numbers of tourists reportedly contributed $30 billion to the U.S. economy.

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