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Airlines Take New Approach to International Routes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite the sputtering economy, airlines still see bright spots in international travel, ranging from emerging markets such as Dubai and Liberia, to old favorites including Paris.

This month, for instance, UAL's (UAUA) United Airlines began Washington-Dubai service, while Delta (DAL - Get Report) launched Atlanta-Mumbai and announced plans to fly to Monrovia, Liberia, its seventh African destination, in 2009. On Wednesday, Delta will unveil additional international destinations for next year.

Already, US Airways (LCC) and Delta have said that next summer, three medium-sized cities -- Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham -- will have seasonal service to Paris.

"We're pleased with the way the Dubai route started out and with what's developing in the Middle East," said Kevin Knight, United's senior vice president of planning, in an interview. "Everything is being impacted by the economy, but the Middle East has been strong. As I tell my employees, we talk about capacity reductions, but we're not solely focused on reducing capacity. There are opportunities. Dubai is one we identified, and we're taking advantage of others, as well."

United is also building its presence in Australia, adding a second nonstop from Los Angeles this summer, giving it nonstop flights to both Melbourne and Sydney. It will add a Dulles-Moscow flight in March, underscoring its confidence in the Dulles hub, which has flights to 21 international cities.

"Dulles flows north/south domestically, and it is a great international gateway," says Knight. "It's much more than government traffic. That whole Virginia area has grown exponentially, and we're the beneficiary."

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