- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

2:34 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Transportation today awarded Washington Dulles International Airport and United Airlines coveted permission to fly nonstop to Beijing.

Three other airlines — American, Continental and Northwest — also were competing to win the only new U.S.-to-China route, with each proposing service from a different U.S. city.

With the Transportation Department awarding only one winner, competition was frenzied.

The new service, which United says will begin in about three months, is expected to provide a tangible as well as symbolic boost to Dulles, which served 27 million passengers in 2005 — almost 5 million of whom flew on international routes.

Washington is the largest U.S. metropolitan area without nonstop service to China.

“The decision by the [Transportation Department] will fill this critical gap in transportation between these two countries,” said James Bennett, president and chief executive of the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Washington-to-Beijing service will generate $275 million to $333 million annually for the Washington region’s economy and create 3,400 to 4,100 jobs, says the Capital-to-Capital Coalition, a joint endeavor among United, the airports authority and several Washington-area trade and business organizations that promoted United’s bid.

“It is clear DOT strongly considered both the national interest and the individual communities served by the route,” said Jane Garvey, coalition co-chairwoman and a former Federal Aviation Administration administrator. “Creating a link between Washington and Beijing is an important step in the effort to connect the United States and China some 30 years after diplomatic relations were normalized.”

United beat out American, which sought to fly between Dallas-Fort Worth and Beijing; Continental, which applied for service between Newark, N.J., and Shanghai; and Northwest, which applied for Detroit-Shanghai service.

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