Delta returns Atlanta-Shanghai frequencies to DOT

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Delta Air Lines has returned the seven US-China flight frequencies that it used for its Atlanta to Shanghai-Pudong nonstop to the US Department of Transportation.

The airline had intended to use the frequencies to relaunch its Tokyo-Narita to Guangzhou nonstop last year but postponed the route indefinitely following the devastating Tohoku earthquake in Japan in March 2011, Delta says.

"There's a lot of [US-China] frequencies out there and anybody who wants them can get them," Delta continues.

The airline won the frequencies in a hard fought battle with American Airlines, Continental Airlines, MAXjet - a proposed all business-class airline - Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways in September 2007. It operated a daily flight on the route with a Boeing 777-200LR from March 2008 to September 2009, and again twice-weekly from June 2011 to January 2012.

"The environment in 2007 was very different than it is right now," says Delta, citing the cost of fuel and global economy issues.

Delta continues to operate daily services to Shanghai-Pudong from both Detroit and Tokyo-Narita.

Northwest, which merged with Delta in 2008, launched Tokyo-Narita to Guangzhou in 2004. Delta continued to operate the route until 2009.