China’s Hainan Airlines (600221.SH) secured approval from regulators to start its second U.S. service, and plans to launch flights from Beijing to Chicago next year with Boeing Co. (BA) 787 Dreamliners.
Hainan already flies from the Chinese capital to Seattle and Toronto, and in March signed a marketing pact with American Airlines to cross-sell each others’ flights.
The Chinese airline had already identified Seattle as a likely destination for its yet-to-be-delivered 787s.
It said in its application to the U.S. Department of Transportation that it would use the Dreamliner "or equivalent longhaul aircraft in its fleet" to start four weekly Chicago flights.
U.S. carriers still operate the majority of flights to China, though executives have noted recent expansion by their Chinese counterparts in recent months, intensifying competition on the routes.
Hainan will be the first Chinese carrier to fly the Beijing-Chicago route, alongside AMR Corp.’s American and United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL). Cathay Pacific Airways Group Ltd also flies from Chicago to Hong Kong.
China Southern Airlines Group Ltd. (ZNH, 600029.SH) is expected to be the first Chinese carrier to receive a 787, and Hainan’s plans to launch Chicago service with a Dreamliner will depend in part on how local regulators handle the new plane.
Chinese regulators have in the past taken time before authorizing new aircraft types on long-haul routes, requiring its carriers to have extensive proving runs on domestic flights. China Southern has been flying its huge Airbus A380s on domestic services for a year.
The U.S. is quickly becoming a key market for Dreamlliner services. Japan Airlines Corp. started a Tokyo-Boston flight earlier this year and All Nippon Airways Co. (ALNPY, 9202.TO) plans to fly them from Tokyo to Seattle and San Jose.
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