American got the nod for its Chicago flights in part because United already runs non-stop flights to Beijing and Shanghai seven times a week out of that market. The report also pointed out that no U.S. carrier offers non-stop service from New York, where the demand from business travelers for flights to China has surged in the last few years.

Michelle Lin, manager of East Travel Consulting Services in Green Brook, N.J., said travel time is another consideration non-stop flights will take 17 hours from the East Coast, while the old routes took much longer due to layovers.

There is still a way to get there from here. The demand for non-stop service to China is being met at LAX by Chinese carriers. China Eastern Airlines offers non-stop service from LAX to Shanghai, while Air China offers non-stop service to Beijing. China Southern Airlines offers non-stop service to Guangzhou.

Many of the Chinese carriers came to Los Angeles in the 1980s, when no U.S. carrier was authorized for China-bound flights, said Dan Kasper, managing director of LECG LLC, an economic and financial consulting firm, in Cambridge, Mass. They obtained gates at LAX because it was not a hub and the region had a large population of ethnic Chinese.

The Chinese carriers also have agreements with U.S. airlines, which sell tickets under their name in exchange for a slice of the sales. The arrangement allows U.S. travelers to use their frequent flier miles on U.S. carriers and book tickets under names they know. American, United and Delta have such arrangements with Chinese carriers at LAX.

Those arrangements have legitimized many of the Chinese carriers to West Coast travelers, said Owen Imaizumi, director of product development in Asia for Pleasant Holidays in Westlake Village. Except in summer, seats are usually available for business travelers.

The demand for China-bound flights is likely to skyrocket in the next few years as businesspeople prepare for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.


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