United plans more China flights from SFO

United Airlines plans on running more nonstop flights between San Francisco International Airport and China next year, as state and regional officials stress the economic benefits of a strengthened relationship with that nation.

In a move that has already earned praise from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for increased tourism and commerce, United announced this week that it will apply to the federal Department of Transportation to begin daily nonstop service between SFO and the Guangzhou area in 2008.

Should the airline earn federal approval for the nonstop service, it would be the first direct flight to that region from SFO, according to airport spokeswoman Kandace Bender, who estimated in May that approximately 80 percent of travelers heading to China from SFO visit the Guangdong Province in eastern China, of which Guangzhou is the capital city.

“We’re very supportive of any efforts on the part of our airlines to step up service to this region,” Bender said Tuesday, noting that Air China and United Airlines together operate approximately seven flights daily between the two countries.

San Francisco has the largest Chinese-American population in the nation. Commerce between The City and Guangzhou — considered the business center of Guangdong Province — is only expected to increase, United spokesman Pete Scales said.

Business relationships between the U.S. and China are expected to grow in the next five years. In May, federal transportation officials said that a bilateral aviation agreement between the United States and China would more than double the number of daily passenger flights between the two nations by 2012.

According to information from Schwarzenegger’s office, California is also the number-one state in terms of total exports to China, for products such as computers and general electronics, waste and scrap materials, transportation equipment and heavy machinery.

“San Francisco is our gateway to the West,” Scales said. “We saw a great demand that was not being met for service between the two regions.”

tramroop@examiner.com

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