US Airways puts Philly in contention for China route

Posted: July 16, 2007

US Airways made its formal application today to fly nonstop between Philadelphia and China, throwing the city into competition with other U.S. airports for the coveted route.

The airline, the dominant one at Philadelphia International Airport with 60 percent of the business, said it wants to start service in March 2009 to China's capital, Beijing. Previously, US Airways said it would apply to serve Shanghai, the country's leading business center, in 2008 or 2009.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines already have applied to the Transportation Department to start service to China. Three others, Continental, Northwest and Hawaiian, have also said they plan to apply.

Demand for available flights to China is high because of the growing economy. The route, which requires U.S. Department of Transportation approval, is one of several the agency will consider this year as part of an expansion of airline service that the U.S. and Chinese governments agreed to this spring.

US Airways said it would start its daily service to China in Charlotte, N.C., its largest domestic hub, using a Boeing 767 jet that would bring travelers to its international hub in Philadelphia.

Then they would transfer to a larger jet for the 12-hour flight to Beijing.

The airline plans to buy or lease long-range four-engine Airbus A340 jets on the open market or from the European manufacturer to start the service, spokesman Philip Gee said. US Airways doesn't have jets now that can make the 12-hour nonstop flight from Philadelphia.

Typical of applications to countries where airlines have to compete to start new service, US Airways included in its application letters from dozens of public officials and business leaders touting the advantages of awarding it the flights.

Mayor Street, North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and U.S. senators from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina all support US Airways' application, the airline said.

US Airways said 19 million customers use its service annually at Philadelphia, the second-largest U.S. metropolitan area after Boston that does not have nonstop service to China now.

Philadelphia outranks three other metro areas - Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit - that also are hubs of major airline applying for China service this year or in 2009, the airline said.

In his letter of support, Street said flights to China from Philadelphia would "exponentially increase the economic benefits to our region."


Contact staff writer Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com

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