updated 9/25/2007 3:34:50 PM ET 2007-09-25T19:34:50

Delta Air Lines Inc. is getting a prize nonstop gateway to China, the first from the Southeast to that nation for a U.S. airline.

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters announced Tuesday that Delta's Atlanta-to-Shanghai route could begin in April.

Peters also announced the government has awarded United Airlines the right to fly nonstop from San Francisco to Guangzho in 2008.

She proposed new service to China starting in 2009 involving four other airlines. The proposed routes are open for public comment before a final decision is made.

They include a Continental Airlines route from New York to Shanghai; a Detroit-to-Shanghai route on Northwest Airlines; an American Airlines route from Chicago to Beijing; and a U.S. Airways route from Philadelphia to Beijing.

Peters said she hopes to make a decision on these routes soon.

The transportation secretary said Atlanta business and aviation officials made a compelling argument on Delta's behalf for the China route. She said the quality and frequency of flights between the two countries will improve, and she also expects ticket prices to fall.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson said the company expects to start the route in April provided the two new Boeing 777 aircraft it purchased for the route will be available from the manufacturer on time.

Peters said opening of routes such as Delta's to Shanghai "are the best way to break down barriers and misconceptions that too often come between our two countries."

Also on Tuesday, Peters told members of the National Business Aviation Association that U.S. air travel infrastructure needs immediate expansion and technology updates to avoid a transportation crisis.

Slideshow: Alluring Asia Airports should have satellite-guided air traffic control systems and pilots need new equipment with a "real-time" view of the airspace around them, Peters said. She also urged Congress not to delay the reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration past the end of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

She says putting off the reauthorization would mean more flight delays and frustrations for travelers in U.S. airports.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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