The DOT has tentatively picked American over Delta in the airlines' competition over the last available slots for U.S. carriers to Beijing.

Both airlines had applied to add new service between Los Angeles and Beijing. The DOT said it selected American because Delta already offers West Coast-Beijing service while American does not.

American's planned daily service to Beijing would be the last flight to the Chinese capital that the DOT can approve under the existing U.S.-China Air Transport Agreement, which caps the number of combined weekly frequencies to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou at 161.

American says it will fly the route with a 289-seat Boeing 777-200.

In its tentative decision, the DOT noted that United already serves Beijing from San Francisco as well as from Los Angeles via a codeshare with Air China. Delta flies to Beijing from Seattle.

"The Department tentatively finds that the potential benefits of selecting American, and thereby adding a third U.S. competitor to the West Coast-Beijing market, outweigh the benefits that would be achieved through the selection of Delta," reads the decision.

The American flight, the DOT said, would add 24 one-stop connecting points to Beijing from U.S. markets, including 12 from western cities with proven Beijing traffic.

An LAX-Beijing flight on Delta would also add one-stop service from numerous cities to Los Angeles and then onto the Chinese capital, the DOT noted, but travelers from those cities can already fly one-stop to Beijing on Delta through Seattle.

Interested parties have until Nov. 29 to respond to the tentative DOT decision. 

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