None To Soon For US Carriers
Do you have plans to travel to
China? You may have more flight options available when an "open
skies" agreement liberalizing air travel with the US is formally
signed by the end of the year, according to the Associated
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has been working with
Beijing to discuss the agreement.
"We want to at least have the basic framework in place by May,"
According to Peters, the framework "open skies" agreement will
be discussed at a May meeting in Washington during a high-level
U.S.-China dialogue on trade relations.
"Both senior Chinese officials, as well as senior American
officials, have indicated that a liberalized aviation agreement is
something that we want to accomplish in the short term," she
Washington hopes to produce a formal agreement by the end of
A liberalized aviation agreement could see the reduction of
restrictions on trans-Pacific flights and later allow US carriers
to fly through China to other countries, Peters said. She added it
also would be expected to cover cargo flights later.
US carriers, which had aggressively lobbied for the one new
route awarded this year, saw that route go to United Airlines,
which used it to launch the first direct service between Beijing
and Washington last month. Industry consultants say the route has a
value of as much as $100 million in annual revenue.
"There was incredible competition for that flight," Secretary
Peters acknowledged, "and I would see that type of competition
between most all US airlines and Chinese airlines."
Northwest Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines
had also bid for the route.
The number of airline flights between China and the U.S. is
limited by international agreement.
Despite strong demand from rapidly
rising tourist and business travel, there are an average of only 11
daily non-stop flights between China and the US, said Peters. By
comparison, she said, there are 55 daily flights between the US and
Germany, which does have an "open skies" agreement with
Officials at American are interested in learning how quickly
routes might be added between the two countries.
"Obviously, we'd be greatly in favor of seeing more frequencies
open up," said American spokesman Tim Smith. "The markets between
the United States and China are still greatly underserved."
Smith said the airline plans to bid for new China flights in the
future, but has not determined specific routes.
Continental also supports the government's efforts to liberalize
air travel between the two countries, said spokeswoman Julie
"Continental continues to be interested in additional flights to
China, including New York to Shanghai," she said.
Continental's proposal last year was a New York-Shanghai
Delta Air Lines, too, is looking towards China, officials at the
carrier said Friday.
"Delta is keen to build our presence in Asia as a continuation
of our international expansion," said spokeswoman Betsy Talton. "To
this end, we've applied to provide the first and only non-stop
service to China from the Southeast, and would certainly pursue
additional US-China markets if negotiators agree to further
FedEx Corp. recently obtained rights to operate 30 round-trip
flights between the US and China, said spokeswoman Denise Lauer.
The company broke ground last year on a $150 million hub in
southern China at the Biyun International Airport in Guangzhou.
"FedEx has long supported the liberalization of the global air
industry," Lauer said. "We believe a more open aviation regimen
will lead to lower costs, more flexible and efficient services,
commercial activity, and growth and development. We support it
especially in the China market."