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News :: Media
Giuen Media
29 Jun 2007
American sees Chicago as next China gateway: Carrier will push for route to Beijing from O'Hare in 2009
Friday, June 29, 2007

Jun. 29, 2007 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex) --
American Airlines Inc., which lost its bid for a route between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Beijing last year, won't apply for the same route when the U.S. Department of Transportation considers requests for routes to start in 2009.

American said Thursday that it instead will seek a Chicago-Beijing route for 2009. It said it may apply for a China route from D/FW when transportation officials open up competition for flights that would begin in 2010, 2011 or 2012.

Spokesman Tim Smith said American considered applying for service from D/FW, Chicago and Los Angeles for a new 2009 route. It chose Chicago, he said, because that gateway seemed to offer the highest financial return.

'The economic considerations and the financial forecasts that we envision in 2009 favor Chicago at that time,' he said.

Mr. Smith said American will take a new look at a D/FW route to China, when the Transportation Department asks for applications for routes that would begin in 2010, 2011 or 2012.

D/FW Airport chief executive Jeff Fegan expressed regret that the airport won't be included in the 2009 round.

A study commissioned by the airport estimated that daily service to Beijing would inject $180 million a year into the Texas economy.


'We are disappointed because the state of Texas and our community are ready for nonstop service -- the demand and the trade are there,' he said. 'We will continue to look for opportunities to link our two strong economies.'

When American applied for a Beijing route from D/FW in 2006, it said it would provide the most direct and convenient service for cities in the Southeast and the southern half of the U.S.

Transportation officials awarded the route in January to United Airlines Inc., which launched Beijing service in March from Washington, a city that is farther south than the other U.S. gateways to China.

In addition, Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE:DAL) is considered the front runner for a route to be awarded this year, with service from Atlanta to Beijing.

Mr. Smith said American weighed the increased service from Southern cities, in place and projected, when it decided to apply for a Chicago gateway to Beijing.


'Based on growth projections and so forth, we feel that the upper Midwest and the Northeast will play significant roles in the feed part of the flight at that time,' as well as manufacturing facilities in the Midwest, Mr. Smith said.

'All those things came together to point to Chicago for 2009,' he said.

American plans to use a 245-seat Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777 to fly the route.

American had been rumored to be in line to win the D/FW-Beijing route last year. However, it tried to amend its application in December, after it was unable to get an agreement with its pilots' union to permit the ultra-long flights.

The carrier's contract with the Allied Pilots Association limits flights to 16 hours, and the flight to Beijing would have been slightly over that limit. The union asked for some items in exchange for giving its permission, but the airline did not accept the offer.

In December, as the Transportation Department prepared to make a decision, American asked for permission to amend its application to allow a stop in Chicago on the way to Beijing. The department denied the request, allowed American to withdraw its application, and awarded the route to United.

In its announcement Thursday, American listed the flying time from Chicago to Beijing at 13 hours and 35 minutes and 12 hours and 55 minutes on the return. United, which already flies that route, lists a 20 minutes shorter flying time to Beijing and the same time as American on the return.

American and United have large connecting hubs at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Newstex ID: KRTB-0046-17809372

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