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Feng Ru is considered the Father of Chinese Aviation. A well-known engineer in China, he was inspired by the Wright brothers’ success to move to California, where he built planes of his own design in a small workshop. He completed his first aircraft in 1909, returned to his homeland with two planes in 1911 and is believed to be the first pilot to successfully take off from China. Lee Ya-Ching has been called China’s First Lady of Flight. As a teenager, she was one of the most famous silent-film actresses in China. But her life trajectory changed while she was attending an air show in Paris. It was then that she became determined to be her country’s first female pilot. After studying in both Europe and the United States, she returned to China in 1935, earned a pilot’s license and went on to become China’s most famous aviator and foremost promoter of civil aviation.
While China’s aviation history is long and storied, for too long American Airlines — for a lot of reasons and to our great frustration — was not a part of it. That changed in 2006, when we launched nonstop service between Shanghai and Chicago. And more recently, we began an important and exciting new chapter, adding a second China-bound flight, this time between Chicago and Beijing.
As I am sure you know, Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and has been the country’s political and cultural center for hundreds of years. Located on the northern tip of the North China Plain (Beijing literally means “Northern Capital”), it is the country’s second-largest city after Shanghai. Having visited Beijing several times, I know firsthand that it is an amazing city, one I cannot begin to do justice in the space I have here. Perhaps nowhere else on Earth can you experience so much history alongside so much modernity, from the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, ancient opera halls, temples and teahouses to skyscrapers and five-star hotels.
Adding Beijing to our global network is a big milestone for us and for our customers. The economic and cultural links between China and the United States have never been more important, and this new service further cements the status of our Chicago hub as a premier gateway to Asia and the Pacific. We now operate daily nonstop service from Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai and Beijing.
New markets are always a challenge, and of course, getting the job done well for our customers requires more than modern aircraft and comfortable seats. Fortunately, we have a group of experts at American who have helped us tailor our product offering for the new Beijing service. Our Asian/Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group has played a major role in planning several aspects of our service, from in-flight entertainment to onboard cuisine. I hope you will visit AA.com/China to learn more about our Beijing and Shanghai services and stop by AA.com/Milestones to enjoy video tours, customer photos and message-board postings.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius famously said, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” While I don’t think he had air travel in mind (it was about 2,500 years ago), that advice certainly resonates with me, and I know it resonates with all of my AA colleagues all over the world who put their hearts and souls into taking you wheresoever you want to go in the world.
I know I speak for them when I say thank you for flying with us today. Have a great trip!
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO