LOS ANGELES (

TheStreet

) --

United

(UAL) - Get Report

applied Tuesday for regulatory approval to fly between Los Angeles and Shanghai, just five days after

American

(AMR)

was approved for the same flight.

Although carriers have been slow to begin service on all the China routes approved in a

historic 2007 ruling by the U.S. Transportation Department, the rapid-fire series of filings and approvals for Los Angeles-Shanghai shows that interest in flying to China remains keen, especially as the Chinese economy remains strong and the U.S. economy improves.

United said it is seeking an expedited ruling and wants to begin service on May 20, 2011. American's request was approved Friday, a scant six days

after it was filed. American wants to begin service April 5.

Los Angeles-Shanghai is the largest air travel market between the U.S. and China, but currently it is served only by

China Eastern Airlines

. China Eastern will join

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

in the SkyTeam alliance by mid-2011.

In its filing, United addressed the American flight, noting: "Although another U.S. carrier is also proposing non-stop service, given the number of unused frequencies available and the relatively large size of the market, competitive service by U.S. carriers is fully warranted."

Following the approval of the American application, 21 unused weekly frequencies available are currently available under the U.S. -- China Air Transport Agreement. Effective in March 2011, 35 weekly frequencies would be available. Daily service from Los Angeles would require seven frequencies.

United said it would operate a Boeing 777-200 on the flight, initially using an aircraft with 253 seats and, after about a month, it would switch to one with 269 seats. American would also serve the route with a Boeing 777. The United flight would depart Los Angeles about 1:30 p.m., arriving in Shanghai about 6 p.m. the next day. The return flight would depart Shanghai about 8 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles about 5 p.m.

Airline competition is heating up in Los Angeles, where United operates a hub with 247 daily departures. Last week, American President Tom Horton told

TheStreet

that

American may bulk up service to feed its international flights.

In the application, United requested that partner

Continental

be permitted to code-share on the Los Angeles-Shanghai flight until the carriers have a single operating certificate, which is expected by 2012.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Ted Reed