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Get ready for more flights to China

Negotiators for the United States and China appear to be on the verge of greatly expanding…

Negotiators for the United States and China appear to be on the verge of greatly expanding the 108 weekly flights now permitted between them.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation have been meeting with Chinese counterparts monthly since February in pursuit of an agreement to expand flights to meet the needs of the nations` burgeoning trade. Talks are set to resume Tuesday in Beijing.

A major new deal is possible this week, and top DOT officials are eager for one.

We have an agreement that no longer serves the needs of our economies, says Jeff Shane, DOT`s undersecretary for policy.

China has become America`s top Asian trading partner, eclipsing Japan. Yet a 24-year-old agreement limits the number of weekly round-trip flights to 108 – half by American carriers, half by the Chinese. By contrast, airlines fly 300 round trips a week between the USA and Japan.

United and Northwest airlines are the only U.S. passenger carriers allowed to fly between the USA and China, and only United flies non-stop. Federal Express and UPS have rights for cargo planes.

Mo Garfinkle, a Washington, D.C.,-based airline consultant who advises the Chinese, said air traffic was sparse before China blossomed into an economic powerhouse. In addition, he says, the Chinese were also very restrictive about who they allowed in. But China-U.S. trade has leaped to $170 billion last year from $4.8 billion in 1980. U.S. companies have invested nearly $500 billion in China.

These days, demand is such that it can be tough to get seats to China, especially on non-stop flights. A coach seat on United`s Chicago-Beijing flight with three days` advance booking runs $1,783 round trip; a business-class seat is $6,346 round trip.

A new agreement is likely to let DOT name one new U.S. passenger airline this year and one new U.S. cargo carrier next year to serve China, Garfinkle says.

The U.S. has proposed that each country, upon signing, be allowed to add 14 passenger flights a week and 24 cargo flights a week. Several more U.S. passenger and cargo airlines could be serving China by 2010 under terms of the talks.

No. 1 American Airlines, which has long sought access to China, will press for flight rights as soon as a deal is signed. American wants to fly Boeing 777s non-stop from Chicago to Shanghai, a route no U.S. airline now serves.

Will Ris, American`s top lobbyist, says service could start next year if the airline gets flight rights. We`re pretty optimistic. It`s a huge deal.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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