Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) said Monday it will restart service between Seattle and Shanghai on June 25, becoming the first U.S. airline to resume flights to China following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines dramatically reduced their flying schedules in the spring due to the pandemic, but as markets begin to reopen, carriers are slowly rebuilding schedules and adding service to routes where passenger or cargo demand justify the flights.
Both Delta and United Airlines Holdings have said they intend to resume flights to China, but those plans were put on hold briefly due to a conflict between the U.S. and Chinese authorities over landing rights.
Delta will serve Shanghai via Seoul twice per week. In July, it will add once-weekly flights between Detroit and Shanghai, also through Seoul. The airline said it will sanitize all aircraft before departure, adjust boarding processes to reduce passenger crowding, and use filtered air circulation systems. Delta is also capping seating at 75% for first class, and 60% for the rest of the plane.
"We are excited to resume our services between the U.S. and China, as economic and social activities start to recover," Wong Hong, Delta's president for Greater China and Singapore, said in a statement. "With a mission to connect the world, Delta is committed to getting our customers to their destinations safely and confidently, especially at this critical time."
International service is expected to remain limited for the foreseeable future, but Delta and other airlines are restoring routes that can justify the added expense related to long-haul international flying with added cargo. Though oil prices continue to creep up from their pandemic lows, Delta has committed to restore service to its key international hubs including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, and Paris as well as niche service to destinations including Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and Lagos where demand is sufficient to make the flying viable.