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Flying Between U.S. and China Is Booming -- Too Bad It's Not Profitable

Stocks in this article: AAL DAL UAL BA

Chicago (TheStreet) -- U.S.-China flying is the wave of the future. It is expanding rapidly, never more rapidly than this month. Airports welcome the service, passengers love new non-stop destinations and airline crews tend to be proud to work the flights.

It's just too bad that in general air service between the U.S. and China is not yet profitable.

Eleven days in June were the most important period for China/U.S. aviation since the historic 2007 bilateral agreement vastly expanded flying between the two countries.

On June 9, United (UAL) began thrice-weekly service between San Francisco and Chengdu, the first commercial aviation flight ever between North America and the interior to China. On June 11, American (AAL) added flights from Dallas to Hong Kong and Shanghai. On June 16, Delta (DAL) launched Seattle-Hong Kong service. On June 20, Chinese carrier Hainan began Boston-Beijing service, which will be daily for much of the summer.

Not to mention the Honolulu-Beijing service that Hawaiian (HA) began on April 16, three months after Air China began Beijing-Honolulu service.

"Everybody wants more access to China," said aviation consultant Bob Mann. "The conundrum is that there's already too much. The amount of capacity in the market is outstripping the demand."

Mann compared China flying to gold mining. "You dig a hole for a while. Eventually you hopefully reach your goal: making money."

In the four years from August 2010 through August 2014, the number of flights between China and Hong Kong, and the U.S., increased by 73% and capacity as measured by available seat miles grew by 58%, according to statistics compiled from schedule databases. Hawaii service is not included in the statistics.

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