Delta Air Lines has officially launched its bid for the first and only nonstop flights between Atlanta and Shanghai, following the U.S. Department of Transportation’s request for airlines to apply for future service to China. The airline’s case, detailed at www.NextGatewayToChina.com , is supported by a broad coalition of elected officials, business leaders, trade associations and tourism organizations, including 10 U.S. representatives, 10 governors, two U.S. senators, seven state agencies, two regional chambers of commerce and three Chinese professional associations.
“Delta will demonstrate to the Department of Transportation that nonstop flights between the world’s largest passenger gateway in Atlanta and one of the world’s fastest growing economies in Shanghai is the best choice for American consumers and businesses,” said Delta Chief Operating Officer Jim Whitehurst. “As Delta continues its ongoing international expansion, we want to be the world’s first airline to link the 65 million people of the Southeastern United States who currently lack convenient access to China directly with emerging markets of the Far East.”
Delta, which serves more worldwide destinations than any other carrier, is the largest U.S. international carrier without nonstop service to China. The Southeastern United States is the only area of the country without a direct flight to China.
The 12 members of the Georgia Congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, stating: “An award to Delta will establish Atlanta as the most powerful new nonstop gateway to China, fill a substantial service void, and provide enormous consumer and competitive benefits to the nation and to the hundreds of communities and millions of people located within Atlanta’s huge catchment area. The world’s largest airline hub should be linked to the world’s most populous country.”
Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, added: “Direct air routes are essential to building global commerce and China is one of the most significant export markets for the Southeastern United States. Delta is well-positioned to serve China and I believe the Atlanta-Shanghai route is without a doubt the best choice.”
Delta believes it has the strongest case for the 2007 designation. It will meet the DOT’s requirements to be a new entrant to China and will offer new seven weekly round-trip flights with both passenger and cargo capacity.
Delta plans to provide daily nonstop service between Atlanta and Shanghai using its flagship Boeing 777 aircraft in a two-class configuration featuring BusinessElite, Delta’s award-winning business class service. Additionally, Delta plans to introduce fully horizontal lie-flat seats on its Boeing 777 fleet beginning in 2008, with a new in-seat entertainment system currently offering on-demand, digital video and music at every suite. Delta will outline its planned Atlanta-Shanghai flight schedule and proposed start date in upcoming filings with the DOT.