The US Department of Transportation has drafted a policy proposal that would ban Chinese airlines overflying Russian airspace from operating to and from the United States, sources briefed on the proposal have told The New York Times.

The draft was reportedly presented to the national security team, but it has yet to be published or officially acknowledged. The Biden Administration is currently reportedly evaluating the potential diplomatic fallout from imposing such a ban, which would likely significantly antagonise China.

The news follows a lobbying offensive by Airlines for America, an industry group for US carriers. The airlines and policymakers have been lobbying in Washington for weeks to restrict foreign airlines from using Russian airspace on their flights to the US. They argue that the ability to use Russian airspace gives foreign carriers an unfair advantage and also poses a safety risk to US passengers on board in case of a potential diversion.

Airlines from the United States, the European Union, and several allied countries were banned from Russian airspace in March 2022. The ban was a response to a similar sanction on Russian airlines, which were prohibited from overflying European and North American countries as a part of sanctions related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The inability to overfly Russia poses a significant operational challenge to services between the US and most Asian destinations. For example, American Airlines' and United Airlines' services to Delhi International (from New York JFK and New York Newark, respectively) take more than an hour more than the same routes operated by Air India across Russian airspace. American Airlines, which uses B777-300(ER)s on the route, has occasionally been forced to operate via Bangor International on the return leg, on top of flying with restricted payload in the first place. Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows that United Airlines, which uses B787-9s, has not been adding unscheduled refuelling stops.

The ch-aviation capacities module and Flightradar24 ADS-B data cross-check shows that Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Air India, Uzbekistan Airways, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Xiamen Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines are operating at least some of their passenger flights to the USA via Russian airspace.