News Article | 2/3/2007

China flights backed

FORT WORTH – U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said Friday that she would seek an agreement with Chinese officials to allow more flights between China and the United States.

Ms. Peters said she would continue discussions with Chinese officials during an expected visit to China in March or April.

“We think that would be very good news not only for America, but for this area in particular,” she said during a visit to Fort Worth Alliance Airport.

U.S.-China trade is booming, with the Asian nation poised to unseat Mexico as the No. 2 U.S. trading partner after Canada. But existing aviation agreements allow limited flights between the U.S. and China.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines Inc. recently lost a high-profile effort to win regulatory approval to provide service between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Beijing.

United Airlines Inc. won that battle, gaining Department of Transportation approval last month to launch nonstop service between Washington and Beijing.

More flights to China would benefit North Texas, said U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who accompanied Ms. Peters.

“It would be very, very important for this area,” Ms. Granger said.

Ms. Peters and Ms. Granger toured Federal Express Corp.’s sorting facility at Alliance, a hub of international trade. As the officials climbed into a FedEx jet, a freight train rumbled across the windswept prairie.

Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood, the developer of Alliance Airport, said he was courting Chinese customers. Chinese auto manufacturers are a particular focus, he said.

A leading Chinese automaker decided last year to locate production of MG sports cars in Ardmore, Okla., 90 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“Any time Oklahoma beats us, that gets us pretty motivated.” Mr. Perot said.

Asia-related cargo has boosted FedEx’s business at Alliance.

Separately, Ms. Peters praised the transportation industry for contributing to strong U.S. job creation.

The U.S. economy added 111,000 jobs in January, the Department of Labor reported Friday.

“That’s over a half a million new jobs in the last three months alone,” Ms. Peters said.