Delta Air Lines will take its ambitious international expansion in a new direction - eastward. The carrier won the first of a set of new US-China routes and will begin Boeing 777 flights between its Atlanta hub and Shanghai by next March, the first China service for Delta and for the south-eastern part of the USA.

As part of several simultaneous US-China route awards by the US Department of Transportation, US Airways won the right to begin flights between its Philadelphia hub and Beijing. It plans to begin its first service to Asia in 2009 with Airbus A340s, ­although it does not have the aircraft type in its fleet or in its most recent Airbus order.

American, Continental, Northwest and United won the other route rights. American will launch Beijing-Chicago O'Hare Continental Shanghai-Newark Northwest Shanghai-Detroit and United Guangzhou-San Francisco.

United, which began a new route between Washington Dulles and Beijing earlier this year, plans to begin its 777 service to Guangzhou sometime in next year's second quarter. The other routes would start at times in 2009 to be determined.

Transatlantic business-class carrier Maxjet had sought rights between Seattle and Shanghai but was rejected by the DoT in favour of the US Airways bid. Maxjet, which flies between London Stansted and US points, says it may seek an award in the next round, covering routes from 2010.

Delta will launch Atlanta-Shanghai in 2008 and US Airways will launch Philadelphia-Beijing in 2009

Source: Airline Business