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US Airlines Vie for Flight Rights to Booming China Route
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United Airlines has plans to start new flight services between California and two Chinese cities in next two years to exploit the booming US-China route, but the airline is facing stiff competition from other US carriers.


In an application submitted last month to the US Department of Transportation, United said it planned daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Shanghai beginning in 2009, and between San Francisco and Guangzhou in 2008.


Supported by city officials, business leaders and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the planned new services are expected to bring thousands of jobs, boost tourism and generate millions of dollars a year for local economy.


Chinese airlines currently offer three nonstop flights to China from Los Angeles, and US airlines operate seven non-stop flights from other cities to China. If approved, United would become the first US carrier to offer a direct flight to any city in China from Los Angeles.


With burgeoning demand for travel between the United States and China, even carriers with connecting flights are often crowded these days, and travelers are eager to have more options on the route, said a Los Angeles Times report Tuesday.


But Chicago-based United Airlines faces stiff competition from other major US carriers who have proposed different city routes as they battle for a limited number of rights to fly between the United States and China.


Los Angeles is being pitted against cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta in what has become one of the more heated lobbying efforts in Washington, according to the report.


A US-China route can bring to an American carrier about 200 million dollars a year, while the number of US passengers flying to China has been growing 10 percent annually for the last several years, twice the growth rate of any other transpacific traffic.


Under a US-China pact reached in May, US carriers will be allowed to operate six new nonstop flights to China over the next three years, and the Department of Transportation will decide which routes to dole out this fall.


The last US carrier to win a route to China was United Airlines when it began daily nonstop service in March between Beijing and Washington. The carrier already operates a direct California-to-China route, from San Francisco to Shanghai.


Delta Air Lines, which wants to offer a direct flight from Atlanta to Beijing, has argued to federal officials that giving United another nonstop flight to China would weaken competition. Delta is one of the only two major US airlines that currently operate no fights to China


(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2007)


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