ATLANTA, July 16, 2007 – Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) is expanding its application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate the first and only nonstop flights between the U.S. Southeast and China to include nonstop flights between the world’s largest airline hub in Atlanta and both Beijing and Shanghai.  Both routes would fill a critical gap in air service for the 65 million residents of the U.S. Southeast who currently lack nonstop air service to China.

“Nonstop service to Beijing and Shanghai will establish Atlanta as a powerful new gateway to the Far East, while providing the greatest connectivity and convenience for passengers from across the U.S., as well as Central and South America and the Caribbean,” said Delta Chief Operating Officer Jim Whitehurst. “Many U.S. carriers will likely apply for nonstop service to China; however, Delta’s application makes it clear that Atlanta and the U.S. Southeast are best positioned to become the next gateway to China.”

At an event held today at Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin joined representatives from the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to unveil a poster-sized copy of an online petition being signed by supporters of Delta’s proposed service and "Next Gateway to China” campaign (  The poster includes paw print “signatures” of Zoo Atlanta’s three giant pandas – Lun Lun, Yang Yang, and Mei Lan – whose names join the more than 20,000 signatures already received since the campaign launched last month.

“In Atlanta at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Delta Air Lines is well-positioned to provide Atlanta and the entire Southeast with the best nonstop service to China,” said Mayor Franklin. “We join today with leaders of business and government and Atlanta’s own giant pandas to show our support for Delta’s new service to China from Atlanta, a route that is long overdue.  We also express our gratitude to Delta for their continued support of Atlanta and for selecting our city as the new gateway for nonstop flights to Beijing and Shanghai.”

Delta, which serves more worldwide destinations than any other carrier, is the largest U.S. international carrier without nonstop service to China.  The Southeastern United States is the largest region of the country without a direct connection to China.

“The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly supports Delta’s bid to provide businesses in the Southeast with much needed access to China,” said Sam A. Williams, president of the Chamber.  “Nonstop routes to the political and economic capitals of the most populous country in the world would be a home run for businesses in Atlanta and across the Southeast.”

Said Ben DeCosta, general manager, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: “Delta’s plans to link Atlanta -- the world’s busiest passenger gateway -- with nonstop service to Beijing and Shanghai would not only be beneficial for our anchor airline, but would also be a tremendous economic asset for the airport, the city of Atlanta and all of our stakeholders in Georgia and the Southeast.  We strongly support Delta’s plans to make Atlanta and the U.S. Southeast the next gateway to China.”

Delta plans to provide daily nonstop service between Atlanta and China using its flagship Boeing 777 aircraft in a two-class configuration featuring BusinessElite, Delta’s award-winning business class service.  Additionally, Delta plans to introduce fully horizontal lie-flat seats on its Boeing 777 fleet beginning in 2008, with new in-seat entertainment system offering on-demand, digital video and music at every suite.

Supporters of Delta’s plan to link the U.S. Southeast directly to China can visit a Web site at to learn more about why the Southeast needs nonstop passenger flights to China and to add their own voice of support. 

Delta Air Lines offers customers service to more destinations than any global airline with Delta and Delta Connection carrier service to 333 destinations in 57 countries. With more than 60 new international routes introduced in the last year, Delta has added more international capacity than all other U.S. airlines combined and is the leader across the Atlantic with flights to 36 trans-Atlantic destinations. To Latin America and the Caribbean, Delta offers nearly 700 weekly flights to more than 60 destinations. Delta's marketing alliances also allow customers to earn and redeem SkyMiles on nearly 15,000 flights offered by SkyTeam and other partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that provides customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. Including its SkyTeam and worldwide codeshare partners, Delta offers flights to 479 worldwide destinations in 105 countries. Customers can check in for flights, print boarding passes and check flight status at

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