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Going to China?

Two years ago, United Airlines trumpeted that it was the first airline to fly nonstop between the capitals of the world’s greatest powers: the United States and China. The new route was the result of heated airline bidding and a special ruling by the Transportation Department.

The route from Dulles International Airport was a big step in what economist Zachary Karabell calls “superfusion”—the growth of a single giant economy linking both countries.

Then came the global economic meltdown. Now United says it can’t find enough business to support year-round operation of the once-celebrated route; the airline has suspended it from October 25 through March 27. While United says it’s just a seasonal thing, the move is a sign of the cooling of bilateral relations between the countries amid the economic crisis and recent trade disputes.

Continuing the service, United spokesperson Sarah Massier says, “doesn’t really make sense if we’re not getting the passenger amounts we want.”

This article first appeared in the October 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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