For American Airlines, trying to get a new route to China has been touch-and-go.
The airline earlier this year withdrew its application for nonstop flights between North Texas and Beijing when a dispute with its pilots complicated the proposal. Under that original plan, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport might have become the Southwest's only direct gateway to China - a distinction worth more than $181 million annually in economic activity in Texas.
American, however, hasn't given up on flights to China and now seeks federal approval to fly nonstop daily between Chicago and China's capital, beginning in 2009.
So why should North Texans care about a Chicago-Beijing flight?
Chicago and communities in surrounding states will be the biggest beneficiaries, but the route would give North Texans easy one-stop service to Beijing. While that's not as convenient as direct service, the route would complement American's existing Chicago-to-Shanghai flights, increase overall airline competition to China and mean potentially lower fares. (United and Northwest currently control most U.S.-China routes.)
American is soliciting business and political support for the Chicago route in advance of a mid-July application deadline. The airline hopes the breadth and depth of support will sway federal Department of Transportation officials.
Since most flights to China originate in Northern cities, the prospect of one-stop service on American from D/FW would greatly benefit North Texas companies that do business in China. And that's not insignificant. Trade with China accounted for more than $9 billion, or more than half of the growth in North Texas' international trade, over the past three years.
American's case is a strong one, and we hope federal officials approve its request for the Chicago-Beijing route.
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