The federal government on Tuesday tentatively granted United Airlines (UAUA) the right to operate the first-ever nonstop daily flight between the United States and China.

The Department of Transportation's approval gives United, initially at least, lone access to a burgeoning travel market that its competitors had also sought to enter.

The Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based airline can begin nonstop service between Washington Dulles International Airport and Beijing's China Peking Capital Airport on March 25 if the tentative decision becomes final, the government said.

United beat out AMR Corp.'s (AMR) American Airlines, which sought to fly between Dallas/Fort Worth and Beijing; Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL), which applied for service between Newark, N.J., and Shanghai; and Northwest Airlines Corp., which applied for Detroit-Shanghai service.

"Interested parties have 14 days to file objections showing why today's tentative decision should not be made final," the Transportation Department said in a press release. If objections are filed, answers are due in seven days and the department then will review comments and issue a final decision.