United Seeks Delay to San Francisco – Shanghai Launch

The airline had originally planned to introduce the daily rotation from May 16, 2015 but is now seeking to delay the start of the new service until July 15, 2015.

US major United Airlines has approached the US Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting a 60-day start-up extension for the introduction of its second daily non-stop flight between San Francisco and the Chinese city of Shanghai. 

The airline had originally planned to introduce the daily rotation from May 16, 2015 but is now seeking to delay the start of the new service until July 15, 2015.

United got the all clear from the regulator to introduce the flight in November 2014 with the caveat that requires it must begin services “within 10 days of May 6, 2015 (i.e., by May 16, 2015),” or else the frequencies will revert back to the Department of Transportation.  The delay is related to access to suitable slots at Shanghai’s constrained Pudong International Airport.

“In order to allow United additional time to coordinate with local Chinese government officials and airport authorities to secure slot times at Shanghai Pudong International Airport that are compatible with United’s operations, United requests a 60-day extension of the Department’s start-up condition,” the airline said its filing with the DOT.

United added that this “modest extension” will allow it “to more efficiently plan, market and implement” its expanded San Francisco-Shanghai service just two short months after the date that is required currently, and will have “no impact on the long-term benefits” this service will provide.

The subject of airport infrastructure across Asia and in particular capacity issues in China was addressed at the recent Routes Asia Strategy Summit in Kunming, China.  It noted that Asian nations are building hundreds of new airports to cope with the surging demand for air travel in the region, particularly from international tourist arrivals which across Asia-Pacific grew six per cent to 248 million last year, the strongest of any region worldwide. This growth has meant that airport infrastructure in many countries has lagged well behind travel growth.

The panel session, moderated by David Stroud, managing director, ASM, included input from Vinoop Goel, Regional Head of Airport, Passenger, Cargo & Security Departrment, Asia-Pacific, IATA; Mark Clarkson, Business Development Director, ASPAC, OAG; Seb Mackinnon, Head of Airport Partnerships, Jetstar Group and Damon Wong, Assistant Vice President, Airline Development, Changi Airport Group.

During the hour long session OAG's Mark Clarkson highlighted the pressure of demand for many of the major Asian airports: “The major Asian airports are going to have to handle much of the future demand and much of the future capacity in the region. It is inevitable that the runway and airspace utilisation is going to have to increase, alongside the infrastructure improvements to manage the growth,” he said.

“Building airports is not enough to meet demand, and capacity needs to be in the right places, but that can also mean concentrated capacity in a few large hubs,” he added.

Routes Asia Strategy Summit

Seb Mackinnon of Jetstar Airways said ratios in the Asia region are very different to other parts of the world: "The market is not the constraint as an industry and as a wider collective, there are bottlenecks that we have to solve together,” he said.

“If we think in terms of buildings, aprons, runways, air traffic control, political constraints, I don’t think we’re really doing justice to the problem, we’re considering them as restraints. If we look beyond that, the core constraints are really costs, and our habits, and almost all of the other problems can be solved by solving those two first,” he added.