Sharing the China

Hungry to share in their carrier’s new profit-rich diet, American’s pilots have told their employer in no uncertain terms that it needs their okay if it is to begin one of the new routes between the US and China and that American is fighting for. The American bid, which many have tipped as possible winner because DFW would be a new gateway to China, is seen as having an inside track given the political power Texas has with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. But the pilot wrinkle can’t help the application for Beijing rights by American, which made its first flight to China in April when its Flight 289 from Chicago landed in Shanghai.

Within hours of the Allied Pilots Association caution to American, another union at another China-seeking carrier, the Air Line Pilots Association at Northwest, made it very clear that – despite all the pay its and concessions they have had to gave during the Northwest bankruptcy that began in September 2005 – they are ready, willing, and able to take on another China route, this one between Detroit and Shanghai. “Northwest pilots see no operational problems as we have been flying from the US to China since 1947, longer than any other American airline currently flying”, said Capt. Dave Stevens, chairman of the Northwest chapter of ALPA.

The US-China route competition has so far been largely positive, although the Business Travel Coalition’s Kevin Mitchell was persuaded to come out against the United Airlines bid to fly Beijing to Washington, the so-called ‘capital-to-capital route’. United Airlines makes its case here. (Mitchell won’t say how he was persuaded.) The other contender is Continental, which wants to link its Newark hub near New York with Shanghai, and which has tried “viral” marketing such as a public march in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown or its public distribution of fortune cookies containing messages in favour of its bid as well as an on-line petition.

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