American Airlines’ much delayed service to Beijing from Los Angeles has finally taken off almost a year after it was first planned to launch, marking the carrier’s third non-stop flight to the Chinese capital.

The new route launch puts an end to months of uncertainty over whether it would be able to commence the route. American Airlines first filed a request to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) back in March 2016 with the aim of beginning the service that December, however difficulties in securing suitable slots delayed the launch.

Since then, it has had to fend off attempts by rival carrier Delta Air Lines to open the same route (due to bilateral agreements with China, there is a cap on how many flights can be operated between the countries’ major cities). It wasn’t until August this year that American Airlines finally made its filing with the DoT for the route with a confirmed schedule.

“American is proud to be the only US-based carrier to offer service between Los Angeles and Beijing,” said senior vice president of international and cargo, Jim Butler. “The new route enhances our expanding Asia-Pacific network by providing more options for business and leisure travellers as well as cargo customers looking to connect shipments on American’s network to Latin America and other destinations in the US.”

The new route, which officially launched yesterday, will operate daily at the following times:

Flight No.FromToDepartsArrivesDays
AA181Los Angeles (LAX)Beijing (PEK)10551620+1Daily
AA180Beijing (PEK)Los Angeles (LAX)18301515

It’s worth noting that as American Airlines will be flying its older Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on the route, premium economy seating won’t be available. Only the airline’s newer B787-9 Dreamliner features a premium economy cabin, outfitted with 21 seats.

The B787-8 that will fly the new Beijing route, however, has 28 fully flat business class seats, each with a 21-inch width and direct aisle access. The airline’s Main Cabin Extra – which American Airlines last month announced would be getting some enhancements – is also available with 55 seats. This is a larger-seat variant of the 143 seats in the Main Cabin – Main Cabin Extra seats have 35 to 36 inches of pitch and 17.2 inches of width, compared to the Main Cabin’s 31 inches of pitch and 16.2 to 18.1 inches of width. Wifi will be available onboard also.

American Airlines’ first direct route to the Chinese capital was from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which it launched in 2010, followed by its 2015 launch of non-stop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Prior to the launch of the new route, American Airlines recently relocated from Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, enabling it to better connect with flights operated by equity (and codeshare) partner, China Southern.

Last month at its annual Investor and Media Day, the airline stated its strategy for Asia-Pacific was focused on joint-business agreements and other partnerships as opposed to new routes, seemingly making the Beijing route the last new service to China the airline is likely to launch for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in June, the carrier announced it would be spending US$1.6 billion to upgrade its facilities at Los Angeles International Airport, including improvements to its Terminal 5 check-in facilities and the unification of passenger check-in and baggage claim areas.

aa.com