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United offering Beijing flights

Nonstop routes to China limited

CHANTILLY, Va. -- One month after winning US Department of Transportation approval for a coveted nonstop route to China, United Airlines launched its inaugural flight yesterday from Washington's Dulles International Airport to Beijing.

"Flights from the United States to China are always packed," said Matthew Alesse of Buffalo, whose work in the medical-device industry takes him to China about four times a year. Passengers say more flights are needed as commerce between the nations grows.

Previously, he would fly to China through Chicago, where bad weather sometimes led to delays.

Direct routes between the United States and China are strictly rationed by international agreement, in part because of busy airports in China and a desire to protect domestic airlines there from competition.

When a new slot opened up last year, airlines and airports waged what airports authority president and chief executive James Bennett called "an old-fashioned, junkyard dog fight" to land the route.

Northwest wanted to fly from Detroit to Shanghai. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines wanted to fly to Beijing from Dallas, and Continental Airlines Inc. pushed for a Newark-to-Shanghai route.