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United Airlines postponed a second daily San Francisco-to-Shanghai flight for the third time this year because of landing restrictions in the Chinese city.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Aug. 13 approved United’s request to push back the Shanghai flight’s start date from Sept. 13 to March 26. The airline cited difficulties getting takeoff and landing times at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport that work with travelers’ schedules, DOT documents show. United was to start the flight May 6 and later received two 60-day extensions.
United’s delays are indicative of the trouble all U.S. carriers have getting access to China’s airports, said Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant in Evergreen, Colorado. The Chinese government tends to limit that access in favor of its home airlines.
“If the Chinese don’t want to give you slots you’re not going to get slots,” Boyd said. “It’s not some sinister plot. It’s what goes on every day in these negotiations.”
The latest delay is just a common procedural issue, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United. The setback doesn’t affect the current daily San Francisco-to-Shanghai frequency.
United first applied for the second daily frequency between the two city pairs in November. The second flight would use a twin-engine Boeing Co. 777, while the original flight operates with a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the Chicago-based airline’s filings show.
Shanghai, the country’s most-populous city, is a hub for China Eastern Airlines Corp. Delta Air Lines Inc., United’s biggest U.S. competitor on trans-Pacific routes, agreed last month to buy a 3.6 stake in the Chinese carrier.
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