Ruling gives Hawaiian Air crack at China market
Flights will be added under an agreement reached last month
WASHINGTON » Hawaiian Airlines is among the carriers that will be eligible to compete for new China routes this year and in 2009, in bidding reserved for carriers that don't yet have the right to fly there.
The airlines may benefit from a U.S. Transportation Department order that will allow U.S. passenger carriers to apply next month for 56 China flights.
Starting Aug. 1, the flights will be added over the next two years under an agreement reached by the two nations May 23.
Airlines want access to China to tap an economy that grew at an 11 percent annual rate in the first quarter.
Among the six largest U.S. carriers that fly internationally, only Delta Air Lines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. don't yet serve China.
Two other new entrants also lost in the last competition, in 2005. They were Hawaiian Holdings Inc., parent of Hawaiian Airlines, which sought San Diego-Shanghai flights via Honolulu; and North American Airlines, which applied to fly from Oakland, California, to Shanghai and Guangzhou via Honolulu.
A Hawaiian spokesman, Keoni Wagner, said he couldn't immediately say whether the carrier would compete again. A spokesman for World Air Holdings Inc.'s North American Airlines unit, Steve Forsyth, didn't return a telephone call to comment.
"We're confident that we can meet the requirements of the 2007 award," said Betsy Talton, a Delta spokeswoman. The Atlanta-based airline seeks daily service between Atlanta and Shanghai using a Boeing Co. 777 jet.
US Airways, of Tempe, Arizona, also will compete for routes, said spokesman Philip Gee, who declined to discuss specifics. The airline is working to acquire planes to make China flights as it seeks to fly between Philadelphia and Shanghai.
"We are certainly interested," Gee said.
Under the order, a new carrier will get the daily flight that starts Aug. 1. Two daily trips beginning March 25, 2008, will go to one or more carriers with China service, possibly including the winner of the Aug. 1 flights. Another new entrant will get some of the 35 daily trips effective March 25, 2009.
The awards for all 56 flights will be made at once, Andrew Steinberg, the assistant transportation secretary for aviation and international affairs, said in an order yesterday in Washington.
He didn't say how soon the awards would be made after applications are submitted next month.
The major U.S. passenger carriers that now fly to China are AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp.
The Transportation Department snubbed Delta in February 2005, the last time China routes were open to new competitors. Delta wouldn't be able to go head-to-head with incumbents such as United, the agency said then in its decision.