United Airlines’ bid to operate daily Boeing 747-400 service from Washington Dulles to Beijing has been tentatively approved by the US DOT, which selected its proposal over rival offers from other majors.

The much-anticipated award, detailed in a DOT ‘show cause’ order today, paves the way for the Star Alliance member to launch Dulles-Beijing operations on March 25, pending final approval.

“It’s not every day we get the opportunity to make flying more convenient, support airlines and boost the economy by proposing to make it easier to fly between the world’s two most dynamic economies,” says transportation secretary Mary Peters in a statement.

“As difficult as the final choice will be, ultimately the goal is to do everything in our power to expand service, destinations and frequencies between the United States and China.”

In addition to United, the DOT assessed bids from American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines, which sought to fly between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Beijing; New York Newark and Shanghai; and Detroit and Shanghai, respectively.

American’s request in December to amend its DFW-Beijing application to allow the flexibility to stop at Chicago O’Hare in the outbound direction appears to have effectively destroyed the major’s chances of receiving the hotly pursued authority.

“The department today denied American’s motion, noting that any amendment this late in the proceeding would significantly delay the start of new service, while allowing American to withdraw its application as requested,” says the DOT.

Instead, United’s Washington-Beijing proposal has been deemed to have the “potential to benefit the greatest number of passengers”, says the regulator, noting that “more people travel to China from the Washington metro area than from any other US city that currently does not have nonstop US-China service”.

Additionally, United’s service will provide the greatest capacity, offering over 253,000 seats annually in the US-China market, says the DOT.

United today applauded the tentative award, noting that it will also open up China to customers of its domestic partner US Airways. “United Airlines is honored to be selected as the first carrier to connect the governments, commerce and cultures of these two important capital cities,” says chief executive Glenn Tilton.

On July 12 2006, the DOT invited US carriers to apply for the 2007 allocation of slots permitted under the country’s bilateral air accord with China. A total of 15 all-cargo and seven combination frequencies have now been issued for use from March 25.

The regulator has granted interested parties a two-week period to file objections showing why today’s tentative decision should not be made final. If objections are filed, answers to objections are due seven days afterward. The DOT then will review comments and issue a final decision.


Source: FlightGlobal.com