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Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Airlines' war of words heats up

FLIGHT FIGHT United Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Nothwest Airlines are battling it out for slots for flights between the US and China


Four US airlines bidding for new nonstop routes between China and the US took their last shots at each other on Monday.

American Airlines, which proposes to fly between Beijing and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport beginning next spring, released a list of 108 members of Congress and 15 governors who support its bid.

"This is far broader public support than other airlines have received," declared Will Ris, a senior vice president who is the airline's chief lobbyist in Washington.

United Airlines boasted 110 members of Congress in its corner, including a hometown booster, House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

United said 28 other countries -- even Iran -- operate services to China from their capitals and so US regulators should approve its bid to fly between Beijing and Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

"The evidence is clear: No other proposed route benefits the public as comprehensively as the Washington proposal," said Jane Garvey, formerly the nation's top aviation regulator and now touting United's bid.

United, American, Continental Airlines Inc, and Northwest Airlines Corp filed proposals several weeks ago with the US Transportation Department, which will decide by year end who gets several additional slots for daily flights between the two countries beginning next spring.

In their applications, the airlines took swipes at each other's plans. Monday was the deadline for the carriers to file rebuttals.

The winner hopes to capture traffic generated by the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and from increased business ties between US companies and the world's most populous nation.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American, the largest US carrier and a unit of AMR Corp, is bidding to become the first US carrier to serve China from a southern state.

It is trying to turn the competition into a two-way race with Houston-based Continental, complaining that Northwest and United, a unit of Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based UAL Corp, already offer far more service to China.

Ris said the Northwest and United bids "should be summarily denied because it would be patently anticompetitive" until other US carriers are awarded more China routes.

Continental planned to file its rebuttal later on Monday, a spokesman said. Last month, the carrier said its service between the New York area and Shanghai would serve four times the number of people as American's proposed Dallas-Beijing route.

Eagan, Minnesota-based Northwest, which is seeking to add a Detroit-Shanghai service, declined to make immediate comment.

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