Like rival American Airlines, United Airlines wants to expand its reach into China and has asked federal officials for permission to begin daily flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai starting in May 2011.
The new service would expand United’s reach in Asia’s booming air travel market, which has rebounded from the recent global recession faster than the U.S. and Europe.
Chicago-based United also seeks to take advantage of additional flights between the U.S. and China that will become available in 2011 under a recent trade agreement that loosened the tightly regulated market for air travel between the two countries.
Transportation Department officials took less than a week to approve American Airlines’ request to launch service between the two cities in April 2011, a decision that was announced Oct. 7. United is hoping for a similarly speedy review, said United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.
United currently flies from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and Tokyo and expanding service to China’s financial capital is a natural extension of its network, Johnson said. “Today, no U.S. carrier is in that market.”
United will likely to be able to do so without a lengthy lobbying campaign or federal review as a result of a 2009 agreement between the U.S. and China that increases the number of flights between the two countries next year. Even with American’s new service, federal officials will be allowed to allocate to 35 flights per week to U.S. carriers.
In an Oct. 12 application, United said it plans to fly Boeing 777-200 aircraft on the route, with flights beginning on May 20, 2011. Merger partner Continental Airlines would code-share with United on the route until the two carriers obtain a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in late 2011 or 2012.
American insisted it isn’t daunted by the prospect of competition on the new route. “We compete successfully against United Airlines on routes between Chicago-Shanghai and Chicago-Beijing, and we will compete successfully with United on the Los Angeles-Shanghai route as well,” said American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan.