American Airlines plans to launch nonstop daily flights from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Hong Kong and Shanghai in June, marking the first direct air service between North Texas and China.Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings joined officials from American and the Dallas-Fort Worth Asian-American community for the announcement at the airport Wednesday.“American is growing its presence in Asia as we take a fresh look at everything we do,” Chief Executive Tom Horton said at a news conference at the carrier’s Admirals Club in Terminal D. “Yeah, it’s a big deal.”Pending government approvals, the Fort Worth-based carrier says it wants to launch daily service between DFW and Hong Kong using a Boeing 777-300ER, a new model that the airline started receiving this year. The service to Shanghai will use a Boeing 777-200.Horton said American has the rights to fly the new routes and is working with Chinese officials to get the necessary authorizations. Currently, American flies to China from Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports.The mayors applauded news of the new connection with China, which both have advocated.“We’re really excited residents will have, for the first time ever, direct access to Hong Kong,” Price said. “The Asian market is ready for business and tourism.”To underscore the economic significance of the announcement, Rawlings pointed out that Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the U.S. but that China has 130 cities larger than Dallas. Rawlings said he expects a short-term economic impact of $360 million from the new routes. American had tried to secure a route between DFW and Shanghai in 2006. But it was scuttled after executives were unable to negotiate a contract amendment with the pilots union to provide for flights longer than 16 hours. The Shanghai route would have been 20 minutes over that limit. The carrier withdrew its application from the Transportation Department, which awarded a new China route to United Airlines.DFW Airport executives have long lobbied American to start service to China. Board Chairman Robert Hsueh, who moved to Dallas from Taiwan in the 1970s and specializes in immigration and international law, was excited to finally announce routes to China.“We will have direct service to one of the largest economies in the world,” said Hsueh, who often travels to Asia on business. The airport has added 15 international destinations in the past three years.Besides its Asia announcement, American said it will begin using the 777-300ER on one of its two daily flights from Miami to London Heathrow in January and one of its four daily flights from Miami to Sao Paulo in November. A 777-300ER will also be used on its route from New York’s Kennedy Airport to London Heathrow starting in March.The carrier revealed that it plans to end flights between Kennedy Airport and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. In a message sent to employees, Chief Commercial Officer Virasb Vahidi said the flight has been unprofitable as its arrival time in Japan limited customers’ connecting options.“Our decision to finally cancel the service followed multiple unsuccessful attempts to persuade the U.S. and Japanese governments to reach an agreement to eliminate all schedule constraints at Tokyo/Haneda,” Vahidi said.Separately Wednesday, 66 Democratic congressmen urged the Justice Department to drop its antitrust lawsuit against the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.A letter sent to President Barack Obama and the attorney general’s office says the lawsuit endangers the economic security of tens of thousands of workers at both airlines.“With more than 20,000 American Airlines employees in the DFW area alone, I have serious concerns about the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against US Airways and American Airlines which will put the jobs of these hardworking Texans and thousands of other Americans at risk. I believe this merger is good for our local economy, good for consumers, good for competition and should be approved,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.The antitrust trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 25 in Washington. Horton said he does not expect the government shutdown to affect the trial and declined to comment on talks the carrier may or may not be having with Justice Department officials about a possible settlement.“We do remain open to a sensible common-sense settlement … and we’re being very thoughtful about that,” Horton said.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk