NEW YORK -- ( TheStreet) -- For all of the overcapacity in the U.S.-China aviation market, one flight seemed to be lacking -- the one between New York and the Guangzhou hub of Asia's largest airline.
That discrepancy ended Thursday, when China Southern (ZNH) flew a 309-seat Boeing (BA) 777-300 ER (extended range) into Terminal Four at Kennedy International Airport, the largest international terminal in the U.S. "We finally made our dream come true," China Southern Chairman Si Xianmin told reporters Wednesday. "It's been China Southern's years-long aspiration to serve New York."
China Southern launched its first route to the United States when it began Guangzhou-LAX service in 1997.
"For a decade we've been analyzing the viability of launching new routes to New York," Si said, through a translator. "(But) before we took a 777-300 ER we did not have the right aircraft to serve New York routes. China Southern purchased the aircraft for this new service."
The 15-hour flight covers 8,014 miles and will initially be offered four times a week.
Bradley Rubinstein, manager of industry and regulatory relations for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the delay in the inauguration of service "primarily rested with the Chinese government. China Southern tried several years ago to launch Beijing-JFK, but could not get the rights from the CAAC."
The Civil Aviation Authority of China would not allow China Southern to compete with Air China, which already served the route. Typically, the CAAC allows just one Chinese airline per international route, although exceptions are made.
"China Southern wanted the route and they had (Airbus) A380s to deploy," Rubinstein said, in an interview. "We had many meetings." The A380 can fly the 6,830-mile Beijing/JFK route, but to fly Guangzhou/JFK the carrier needed two 777s, Si said. It took its first delivery in February.
Another barrier to service may have been the proximity of Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport to Hong Kong International Airport. The two cities are 85 miles apart. Cathay Pacific flies Hong Kong-JFK.