Ask not what your country can do for you … unless you’re a Chinese state-owned airline and it can secure you a plum route to New York before any of your American competitors can. Starting this December, China Eastern Airlines will have a four-times-a-week direct flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and is offering some mighty attractive fares for its first month of service – one travel agent sent us a promotion advertising a round-trip ticket at an unheard-of RMB2,888, or US$366 "between December 11th and January 10th". (Just don’t bother trying to book a flight anytime near Christmas. Or New Year’s.)
The flights begin at about the same time an announcement is expected on which US airline will get the remaining flight between the US and China, which we wrote about last week. That route, still pending US Department of Transportation approval, would likely begin flying back in forth in March. China has not yet used up its allotment of flights to the US under its most recent bilateral agreement (under the agreement there is a certain number of flights allotted to airlines from each country), so expect more US routes for the big state-owned carriers in the future as traffic continues to ramp up.
China Eastern will be using its Airbus 340-600s on the route, which is about 14 hours either way. Compare that to the next-shortest/-cheapest Shanghai-New York flight I could find.
Before we all get too excited, just remember this is China Eastern we’re talking about here. Say what you will about American carriers, they will at least dare to explain to passengers the reasons for delays instead of say, making vague statements and breaking out the refreshment cart while the plane is still on the tarmac. China Eastern’s reputation for comfort and service is mixed at best.
Photo from scribeoflight’s Flickr page.