Star Alliance operator US Airways is pushing ahead with plans to acquire Airbus A340 aircraft (see cutaway) after receiving final authority to inaugurate service in 2009 from its international hub in Philadelphia to Beijing. Tentative rights awarded by the DOT in September to US Airways were formalized last week.

The regulator also cleared American Airlines for Chicago-Beijing service; Continental Airlines for New York Newark-Shanghai; and Northwest Airlines for Detroit-Shanghai flights.

All 2009 services must begin on or about March 25 2009.

At present, US Airways does not operate aircraft that would support service from Philadelphia to Beijing. While the airline holds rights to convert Airbus A330s on order with the manufacturer to A340s, it has also been sourcing aircraft on the open market.

 “We’re still in the process of acquiring the aircraft to fly China,” a US Airways spokesman confirms today. The carrier’s intent to fly A340s on the route remains unchanged, he adds.

US Airways in early November threatened to withdraw its application for China rights if Philadelphia airport officials allowed SkyTeam member Delta Air Lines to move domestic flights into international gates at Philadelphia.

Shortly thereafter, now-defunct operator Maxjet Airways called on regulators to award it back-up authority for the 2009 China award allocated to the Star Alliance member. US Airways responded by informing the DOT that it expects its concerns at Philadelphia to be resolved “long before 2009”.

Additional new service from the USA to China is in the offing, however. In September the DOT also announced final decisions awarding Delta a new daily flight between Atlanta and Shanghai and United a new daily San Francisco-Guangzhou service. Both carriers plan to begin the new flights in spring 2008.