American Air Delays Chicago-Beijing Service

April 27, 2010

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American Airlines said on Monday that it will delay the start of its daily, nonstop service from Chicago to Beijing until next month because China has not given it viable take-off and landing slots.

"Simply put, American has not received commercially viable landing and take-off slots for Beijing Capital International Airport from Chinese aviation authorities," the carrier said in a statement.

Mary Frances Fagan, a spokeswoman for American, said the slots American has been granted would allow it to land and depart from Beijing, which has become one of the world's busiest airports, at pre-dawn times.

"That doesn't work because it doesn't give the passengers opportunity to make connections either in Beijing or Chicago and doesn't make it competitive with other airlines that already serve the two countries," Fagan said.

"We need slots that allow us to land sometime in the afternoon and take off in the afternoon, not in the middle of the night," Fagan said.

Attempts to reach the Chinese embassy in Washington by telephone or email were not immediately successful.

China has been "very tight" with approving landing slots over congestion, especially during peak times of day, said one US-based consultant familiar with bids by US airlines to fly to Beijing.

American said it had applied for slots at Beijing in October 2009. The company had planned to offer service from Chicago to Beijing beginning on Monday, it said.

"American's planned flights were sold with the reasonable expectation that, in common with industry practice, viable slots would be confirmed in time for the scheduled start date of the new service, which had been approved by the governments of both the United States and China," American said.

The company said it hopes it can resolve the issue by May 4, when it plans to start service from Chicago to Beijing, followed by Beijing-to-Chicago service on May 5. It said it was rebooking customers on other flights, offering full refunds or the opportunity to travel at a later date.