A groundbreaking air-services agreement between China and the USA allows for more designated carriers to operate between the countries, and for US cargo airlines to establish hubs in China and vice versa.

Under the new deal, the number of designated carriers for each country may rise over the next six years to nine from four, says the US Department of Transportation (DoT), which adds that the first additional airline from the USA will be introduced late this year.

The total number of flights allocated by each side will also increase gradually to 249 weekly from 54. Restrictions on where carriers may land will also be lifted and "carriers from both countries will be allowed to establish cargo hubs".

The agreement, to be signed in July, is another step by China to open its airports to more foreign airline operations after years of protectionism designed to benefit state-owned carriers.

FedEx Express is considering a hub at Guangzhou's New Baiyun International airport in southern China and says it hopes to "initiate round-the-world flights connecting China to Europe and Asia as well as North and South America".

United Parcel Service (UPS) also says it may establish a hub in China that "will allow UPS to provide centralised transport of goods not only between the USA and China but also within Asia and other parts of the world".

Chinese passenger carriers Hainan Airlines and Shanghai Airlines have expressed interest in launching services to the USA. Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines currently operate to the USA, while China Cargo Airlines operates freighters.

United Airlines says it will seek permission to launch daily non-stop passenger flights between Chicago and Shanghai and it is "interested in serving" Guangzhou. American Airlines, meanwhile, wants to start flying to China. Northwest Airlines and United already serve China, while FedEx and UPS operate freighters to the country.



Source: Flight International