Continental Pilots Endorse Newark to Shanghai Service

The pilots union at Continental Airlines Inc. said Friday it has endorsed the carrier's proposed service between Newark, N.J., and Shanghai, China.

Continental is competing against three other carriers for new flights to China beginning next spring.

Union leader Dave Earnest, a Continental pilot based in Houston, said winning the new routes to China would help Continental keep growing and justify wage and benefit concessions the pilots made last year.

"We made a huge investment in this enterprise back in March 2005, and it is gratifying to see the airline carrying through on its promise to use that investment to provide future growth," Earnest said.

Earnest is chairman of a unit of the Air Line Pilots Association that represents 4,600 pilots at Houston-based Continental.

The cooperation at Continental contrasts with tension at American Airlines, where the company and its pilots disagree over conditions for operating the long flights to China. American's pilots want concessions for operating the 16-hour flights.

American, a unit of Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and Northwest Airlines Corp. are all seeking approval from the U.S. Transportation Department to operate several new weekly nonstop flights to China. The agency is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

Northwest and United dominate U.S.-China service. Northwest, based in Eagan, Minn., announced last month that its pilots were willing to operate the carrier's proposed nonstop service between Detroit and Shanghai.

A union leader said Northwest pilots didn't see any problem operating the long flights, since the airline has been flying from the United States to China since 1947.

United proposes to expand its current service by operating flights between Washington and Beijing. United's unions said in early November that they supported the company's bid.

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