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United Seeks DOT Extension Of San Francisco-Guangzhou Launch


11:42 am
April 30, 2010



posts 215

APRIL 29, 2010
United Airlines this week asked the U.S. Department of
Transportation to extend the start-up date of its San
Francisco-Guangzhou service by yet another year to June 2011, following a
similar dormancy waiver request made last week by Delta Air Lines.
Since 2007, when regulators approved U.S. carriers to launch 16
additional routes between the U.S. and China through 2009, one carrier
has suspended its rights to service, three have pushed back the start
date, and only one has made good on its original intentions of service.

When United in 2008 filed its first request to shift
the start of San Francisco-Guangzhou service, the carrier cited the
historical highs in fuel costs as the culprit. Now, two years later,
United is citing an improving, but still lagging, demand environment as
the reason to postpone the launch.

The United request not only followed, but cited, a
dormancy waiver request Delta made last week, in which the carrier asked
DOT for permission to shift the launch of two Seattle-Beijing weekly
frequencies until June 2011 and postpone daily Atlanta-Shanghai service,
which the carrier launched in 2008 but suspended last year, from
September 2010 until September 2011. Delta, however, said it still plans
to launch Seattle-Beijing service five days a week in June and add two
weekly frequencies to its Detroit-Shanghai route next week, making it a
daily service.

"Like Delta Airlines' April 21 request for an extension
of the dormancy waiver for its planned daily Atlanta-Shanghai service
and twice weekly Seattle-Beijing service, United is submitting this
motion because international travel demand is improving but not at the
level needed for U.S. carriers to implement all planned U.S.-China
services for which the Department has awarded frequencies," United said
in its request.

Those two carriers are hardly alone. American last year
deferred the launch of Chicago-Beijing service, which was supposed to
go live this week, but yet again was put on hold, pending the resolution
of a slot dispute (BTNonline,
April 26)
. Meanwhile, US Airways in June 2008 extended its
Philadelphia-Beijing launch to March 2010, but in October last year
suspended indefinitely any rights to serve that route.

Bucking the trend, Continental Airlines last year
become the only major U.S. carrier to make good on its originally
envisioned China services when it launched nonstop daily Newark-Shanghai
service in March last year. At the time, then-president Jeff Smisek,
now CEO, said, "We are proud to bring our outstanding product to
Shanghai by launching this service as previously announced, even as
other airlines are canceling or delaying similar routes."


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