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Wuhan, once the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, will soon be reachable via non-stop flight from the US. Though flights between the US and China are still far less frequent than a few years ago, this is an encouraging sign of a return to normalcy.
The new route
Starting November 4, China Southern Airlines intends to operate a weekly service on their Boeing 777-300ER between Wuhan (WUH) and San Francisco (SFO). IshrionA, a Twitter account covering airline routes and other industry content, was the first to report the new route. The details are as follows:
- Departure from WUH: 3:10 PM
- Arrival at SFO: 10:55 AM
- Departure from SFO: 12:55 PM
- Arrival at WUH: 6:40 PM (+1 day)
The aircraft is scheduled to touch down in San Francisco on Saturdays and return to Wuhan on Sundays. All these plans are, of course, subject to approval from the US Department of Transportation.
US-China flights are picking up
This new route comes amid a broader increase in flights between China and the US. On the first of this month, the number of permitted weekly round-trip flights rose to 18, and by October 29, 2023, that number will climb to 24. Until May 2023, limitations had been much more stringent, allowing only eight weekly flights between the two nations. This restriction accounted for the once-a-week flight schedules in major routes, such as from Beijing to New York and Shanghai to Los Angeles.
Connectivity is still not great
It’s crucial to highlight that the planned 24 weekly flights are a modest fraction of pre-pandemic numbers. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, bilateral agreements between the United States and China allowed up to 150 weekly flights. As Lucky from OMAAT points out, that means the scheduled service by late October will constitute just 16% of the flight capacity that existed before the pandemic.
While the Wuhan-San Francisco route and the broader increase in flights between China and the US is a positive development, it’s important to note that we’re still far from the pre-pandemic level of international connectivity. Still, with China having been the last major holdout when it came to easing pandemic-era rules, the resumption of flights from Wuhan to the US is a symbolic milestone in the final steps toward pre-pandemic norms for the aviation world.