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It is such a natural fit — the world’s biggest airline serving the world’s most populous country — that a lot of people are surprised it didn’t happen long ago. As you know, we at American Airlines have built a global network that stretches from North America to Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Japan. But we have been unable to directly serve China — the largest and fastest-­growing market — until now.

Last year, the Department of Transportation granted us the authority to launch our first-ever flights to China — and I am delighted to report that nonstop American Airlines service between Chicago and Shanghai begins this month! Shanghai joins a list of nearly two dozen international destinations served by American or American Eagle from our Chicago hub — one of the premier gateways linking the heartland of America to the world. Our newest destination city embodies many of the changes transforming China today. Bustling with economic activity and cultural change, Shanghai is the country’s financial center. It is also home to China Eastern, one of our partner airlines, on which we offer convenient connections to several additional cities within China.

While this is our first foray into China, it is actually the second major addition to our Asia network in recent months. Late last year, we began service between Chicago and Delhi, India. As with Delhi, our new Shanghai service brings excitement, opportunity, and challenges. At roughly 7,000 miles, it’s a long flight — to put it mildly. To conserve fuel, we will be flying over the North Pole during certain times of the year. The airplane we are using is a Boeing 777 — our biggest and most comfortable aircraft — which features 16 lie-flat First Class seats, 35 spacious Business Class seats, and a roomy main cabin with video ­entertainment at every seat and powerports throughout the cabins.

Our in-flight menu includes traditional Chinese dishes. And in addition to Hollywood favorites, the onboard entertainment will include a selection of films from China, with English subtitles. These service offerings reflect input from our Asian/­Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group, and I want to thank them for their insight. I also want to thank the thousands of AA employees who — along with business and political leaders and travel partners from Chicago and throughout our nation’s heartland — helped us secure the right to fly to China.

One of the things I love about the airline business is the opportunity we have to make amazing things happen for our customers. You can stroll Chicago’s Magnificent Mile one day and Shanghai’s historic Bund neighborhood the next. One moment you’re gazing up at the John Hancock Building, and the next thing you know, you’re marveling at the futuristic Pudong/Shanghai skyline (soon to be home to the world’s tallest building). How extraordinary is that?

We are very excited to finally add China to the long list of wonderful places we serve around the world. I know that it will be worth the wait. Wherever in the world you are going today, we are grateful that you have chosen to fly with us. We’ll be working hard to make sure your trip is a great one. Thanks for flying American Airlines.

Picture of Gerard Arpey

Chairman & CEO
American Airlines