United’s Shanghai Expansion Delayed for Third Time on Access

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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 Shanghai expansion is now set to start March 26, U.S. Department of Transportation documents show. The airline cited difficulties getting takeoff and landing times at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport that work with travelers’ schedules for the delay from Sept. 13. Chicago-based 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.”

Shanghai, the country’s most-populous city, is a hub for China Eastern Airlines Corp., which has a partnership with Delta Air Lines Inc. Delta, United’s biggest U.S. competitor on trans-Pacific routes, agreed last month to buy a 3.6 stake in the Chinese carrier.

The U.S. airlines are eyeing a market that is poised to overtake their home turf within two decades as the world’s biggest, according to the International Air Transport Association. Outbound Chinese tourists will double to 200 million a year by 2020 as income rises and other nations relax visa requirements to compete for spending, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets said last year.

United’s 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.

The carrier first applied for the second daily frequency between the two cities in November. The second flight would use a twin-engine Boeing Co. 777, while the original flight operates with a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, United filings show.

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