Since the Trump administration began in January, Air China has seen a significant reduction in demand for U.S. flights and may have to reduce some capacity, its top executive for North America said Tuesday in an interview.
Of significant concern is what the airline believes is a notable decrease in the number of Chinese visitors approved for U.S. visas, said Zhihang Chi, Air China’s vice president and general manager for North America. Another issue, he said, is ethnic Chinese living in the United States who might be avoiding returning to China for vacation because they fear they’ll be hassled by U.S. border officers when they return.
For the visa issue, U.S. officials will not share numbers with the airline, but Chi and his colleagues suspect about 15 to 16 percent of potential travelers are having their applications denied. In the Obama administration, he said, denial rates were about 10 percent. Air China can calculate a rough rate because it allows groups to hold seats and cancel tickets for passengers who do not receive visas.
A representative from the U.S. Department of State did not immediately respond to a Skift question about visa approvals for Chinese travelers. But administration officials said months ago that they intended to make screening for visa applicants tougher.
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