If you look at the world as a fat round ball, and your eyes move east and west, New York and China are half a globe apart.
But if you view the Earth from above the North Pole, perceptions change.
Flying north from New York, over the polar ice cap of the Arctic, brings China nearly as close to New York as it is to Los Angeles on a route across the Pacific Ocean. When you compare flights to China, Los Angeles is only a few hundred air miles closer to Beijing than New York is to Beijing.
That's why Continental Airlines now flies north on its three daily non-stops from its New York hub in Newark, N.J., to three China cities, Beijing, Hong Kong, and the latest, Shanghai, which began March 25.
Continental is the first U.S. carrier with daily service to Shanghai from New York, linking two of the world's top financial centers at a time when finance is on the world's mind. The flight, on a Boeing 777-200, leaves Newark at 11:20 a.m., arriving in Shanghai the following day at 1:45 p.m. The return flight departs Shanghai at 3:45 p.m. and arrives at Newark the same day at 6:20 p.m.
Flying times are approximately 14 hours and 30 minutes in each direction. Movies and music are available in English and Mandarin, as are instructional videos. Menus are in English and Chinese. Continental has offered special fares at Continental.com
I am on a one-week journey from Newark to Beijing, then back to Newark from Shanghai. A highlight of the flight from Newark was the view over the polar ice cap out the window -- ice as far as I could see, with occasional cracks and ridges, and the horizon that clearly showed the curve of the Earth.
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