News Article - March 02, 2007

US Airways looks to other Asia routes  
  Philadelphia could get more direct air service to Asia - including flights to Tokyo - were US Airways to win approval to launch nonstop trips to China next year, the airline's chief executive officer, Doug Parker, said yesterday. As expected, US Airways announced it would file an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation later this year to start flying once a day in each direction between Philadelphia International Airport and Shanghai, China's booming business capital.

   Five other U.S. carriers - American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and Hawaiian - also are expected to apply for the right to fly between China and one of their U.S. hub airports. US Airways would need to buy or lease additional, long-range jets to make the 12-hour flights to China, and could use the same planes to open other routes to Asia, Parker said at City Hall news conference.

   "Tokyo would be a terrific route out of Philadelphia," he said. "If we do well to Shanghai, we'll have the planes to go nonstop to Narita," Tokyo's international airport. US Airways would not need permission from U.S. or Japanese officials to operate those flights, but would have to obtain landing slots at Narita Airport, which are in short supply and desired by other major airlines, Parker said.

   US Airways has been talking to Ace Aviation Holdings Ltd., the parent of Air Canada, about buying or leasing Airbus A340 jets that Air Canada expects to begin replacing this year, Bloomberg News reported. The four-engine A340 has a range of more than 8,000 miles. US Airways spokesman Philip Gee said the airline has talked to several potential sellers of long-range planes, but hasn't decided what it would use if it gets the Philadelphia-Shanghai route.

   In announcing its China plans here, US Airways signaled that it would need help from Philadelphia's business community and political leaders to win the route. Parker called on Mayor Street and a roomful of business and civic leaders at the news conference to help convince federal regulators that Philadelphia is the best choice, in part because it is the largest metropolitan area now with no nonstops to China. U.S.-to-China airline service is more limited than service to most international destinations. Under a six-year agreement between the United States and China signed in 2004, airlines will be able to offer 195 new flights a week, phased in over the term of the pact.

   Each time the Transportation Department opens a proceeding to award an airline more China service, it is bombarded with economic studies and letters from members of Congress and state and local leaders in support of the hometown airline. Mark Schweiker, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said Parker would speak at a meeting of the chamber's CEO Council for Growth this morning to help plot the region's strategy to win the route. Parker is the only member of the CEO Council who lives outside the region.

   Some leaders of Philadelphia's Chinese community and Chinatown business owners were enthusiastic about US Airways' plan, saying it would boost business and leisure travel between the region and China, one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Yong Lu, owner of Success Travel, a Chinatown travel agency and driving school, said a route between Philadelphia and southern China would be even better than one to Shanghai, because most Chinese in the area come from that part of the country. But any nonstop service would better than connecting flights going through another U.S. airport, which can take 24 hours or more to reach southern China, she said. "US Airways would get a lot of business," she said

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer