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Originally published August 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 2, 2007 at 5:02 PM

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Chinese airline plans non-stop Seattle-Beijing flights

China's Hainan Airlines has applied to operate a non-stop flight between Seattle and Beijing starting next June, according to the Civil...

Seattle Times business reporter

China's Hainan Airlines has applied to operate a non-stop flight between Seattle and Beijing starting next June, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The application follows a recent agreement between the U.S. and China to double the number of passenger flights between the two countries by 2012. Transportation officials announced that agreementin Seattle July 9, the day after celebrations for the rollout of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.

But Hainan, China's fourth largest airline, has applied to operate the Beijing-Seattle route using Airbus A330 planes, according to a CAAC statement on Thursday.

The Airbus airplanes will likely be leased as an interim measure until Hainan takes delivery of new Boeing widebody jets it has on order. In 2005, Hainan ordered eight 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is scheduled to be delivered in June 2008 in time for the Beijing Olympics.

Hainan had been in talks with the Port of Seattle about the new route, but had been deciding between Seattle and Newark, N.J. as the U.S. endpoint.

Currently there are no non-stop flights between Seattle and Beijing.

Based on China's southern Hainan Island, the airline is backed by George Soros, its largest investor. The airline has plans to expand internationally under the name Grand China Air.

Since none of the largest American carriers has a hub in the Pacific Northwest, the market is open for a Chinese airline to operate the route, using a U.S. partner to connect to other cities in the region.

Two Chinese airlines, Shanghai Airlines Cargo International and Great Wall Airlines, also applied to operate cargo flights to the U.S., CAAC said.

The transportation agreement allows 23 daily round-trip flights between the two countries by 2012, up from the 10 flights operating now.

In 2010, the U.S. and China are set to begin negotiations on an "open skies" agreement, which lifts restrictions on commercial air traffic.

Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or kheim@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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