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Air China Has Filed To Fly New York To Los Angeles – View from the Wing

Air China Has Filed To Fly New York To Los Angeles

Star Alliance member Air China plans to operate a flight within the United States, from New York to Los Angeles. Three times a week they intend to operate:

  • Beijing to New York JFK
  • New York JFK to Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles to Beijing

Given that flights between the U.S. and China remain limited, that would allow them to serve New York without limiting their Los Angeles service as much. They partner with United, and could pick up connections from them, but they don’t work closely there and Newark isn’t New York JFK. They’d rather sell one-stop same-aircraft connections.

The trick is that they will only be able to carry their own connecting passengers on the New York JFK to Los Angeles flight. You won’t be able to buy a ticket for that flight alone. It’s also only going to operate in one direction: there won’t be Air China service from LA to New York.

Qantas used to fly roundtrip between New York and Los Angeles. That was how they’d serve New York, flying passengers from Australia to Los Angeles and continuing with their own aircraft to New York, and then picking up their Australia-bound passengers in New York, flying them to Los Angeles and then on to Australia.

They weren’t allowed to carry local traffic between New York and LA. In fact, they got in trouble with the Department of Transportation for selling seats in conjunction even with international codeshares on other airlines.

Specifically, Qantas was fined $125,000 (with half forgiven) for selling tickets in 2015 and 2016 on Qantas codeshares for Air Tahiti Nui Los Angeles – Papeete flights and American Airlines Los Angeles – Auckland flights.

Qantas argued that this was legal, that in 1959 the U.S. said that “a foreign carrier may incidentally transport within [the U.S.] only that traffic which it brings in or carries out” and that codeshares count, but the DOT disagreed with this interpretation. Presumably since it wasn’t super clear cut, DOT settled cheap for the win while Qantas chose not to fight it because stopping the practice wasn’t costly to them, and $62,500 wasn’t a big deal for the Australian flag carrier either.

A fifth freedom flight involves travel between two countries not touching the airline’s home country. LAN, for instance, in the past flew New York to Toronto. That’s not what this is. Cabotage would be a foreign airline flying domestic passengers in another country. That’s not allowed even via a third country.

One area that some airlines have gotten in trouble is flying passengers between the U.S. and Guam via Seoul or Tokyo (which is a convenient routing). You cannot buy a ticket on Air Canada, for instance, Seattle to Vancouver to New York even though it’s 20% shorter than flying via Dallas on American Airlines.


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