United wins approval to launch Shanghai flights

By Julie Johnsson
Posted Oct. 13, 2010 at 3:57 p.m.

United Airlines said Wednesday it had gained federal approval to begin daily flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai in little more time than it takes to fly between the two cities.

The speedy review of United’s request, completed a day after the Chicago carrier asked for permission to launch the new China service next year, is in contrast to the lengthy lobbying battles over access to China’s booming market that played out during the 1990s and in the 2000s.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation had needed just six days to approve a request by American Airlines to fly from Los Angeles to Shanghai.

The two carriers want to expand their reach in one of Asia’s fastest-growing air travel markets, while taking 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.

After allocating the daily flights to United and American, federal officials will have 28 flights per week to allot to other U.S. carriers as a result of the 2009 trade pact.

In an Oct. 12 application, United said it plans to fly Boeing 777-200 aircraft on the route, launching service on May 20, 2011. Merger partner Continental Airlines would code-share with United 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.

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