Delta Air Lines Inc. is aiming to bring back its nonstop flight from Atlanta to Shanghai under new market conditions that would make it more sustainable; the problem is that they could take years to materialize, the airline’s new CEO reportedly said last week, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Mr. Bastian, speaking in Gwinnett County, noted that achieving the goal of reconnecting Atlanta with what he called “the capital of Asia” faces a few main hurdles: the expense of aircraft allocation, available flight slots and the profit imperative that eluded the company on its last foray into the market from Atlanta.
“I’m hoping that the next year or two, that’ll be my personal contribution to the community. Because Atlanta needs Shanghai. Shanghai is the capital of Asia, from my vantage point, for the future,” he told a breakfast audience at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, representatives of which used the flight on past trade missions to China.
Mr. Bastian said the airline is awaiting the 2017 delivery of 25 Airbus A350-900 wide-body aircraft that would be “perfect” for the flight, the newspaper quoted Mr. Bastian as saying.
The speech came weeks after Mr. Bastian told Bloomberg of his plans to build up Shanghai as Delta’s “Asia hub of the future,” eventually shifting resources away from Tokyo. The airline bought a nearly 4 percent stake in China Eastern, a SkyTeam partner, which gave it a observer’s seat on the board. Mr. Bastian said it could raise its investment in the future, much like it has done with other airlines in Mexico, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
But Mr. Bastian warned that in the absence of an open-skies accord between the U.S. and China, the low-hanging fruit on routes between the U.S. and China has already largely been taken. He said he hopes to see restrictions removed to avoid the kind of posturing taking place between Delta and American Airlines, which are now lobbying the Department of Transportation for a Los Angeles-Beijing slot, the last remaining before the governments renegotiate access.
Delta’s Atlanta-Shanghai flight, kickstarted after an extensive lobbying effort by the business community and those pushing for better links with China, operated in fits and starts before bowing out for good in 2010. Now the airline flies to Shanghai from Detroit, Seattle and Los Angeles.