US Airlines Hesitant to Resume China Flights

Passenger travel booming, but US airlines slow to restart China routes crucial for e-commerce deliveries.

While airlines are ramping up capacity to meet travel demand elsewhere, a major bottleneck is forming for e-commerce. US airlines are reluctant to resume suspended China routes, creating a shortage of cargo space crucial for affordable e-commerce deliveries between the US and China.

US Department of Transportation (DoT) granted waivers allowing American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines to delay China route restarts for another 90 days. Bellyhold cargo capacity, which relies on passenger flights, is a fraction of pre-pandemic levels due to limited China routes. E-commerce giants like Temu and Shein require significant bellyhold capacity for cost-effective deliveries. China Southern Airlines (CSA) launching new Mexico City route reflects growing China-Mexico trade, but won’t significantly impact US-China cargo needs.

Limited China Flights Hamper E-commerce Growth

The DoT’s decision to extend waivers reflects airlines’ claims that passenger demand on US-China routes hasn’t recovered enough to justify full service resumption. This lack of flights translates to limited bellyhold cargo space, a crucial resource for affordable e-commerce deliveries.

Freight Options Offer Partial Relief

While passenger flights remain limited, dedicated freighter services offer some relief. China Cargo Airlines’ planned Miami route from Shanghai signifies an increase in freighter capacity, though some of this might target Latin American connections.

Uncertain Future for US-China Cargo Capacity

The outlook for dedicated bellyhold capacity on US-China routes remains uncertain. With airlines focusing expansion efforts elsewhere, e-commerce businesses may face continued challenges in securing cost-effective cargo options.

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