United Airlines, a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL), has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to gain authority for non-stop flights from its San Francisco hub to Chengdu, China, United announced today. The airline is planning three flights per week.

If approved, United intends to begin non-stop service to Chengdu, China's fourth largest city with an urban population of approximately 14 million people, on June 9, 2014, using Boeing's 787-8 Dreamliners. United currently owns seven Dreamliners, with an additional 58 on order.

United said the nonstop flight would be almost four hours shorter than the typical travel time between San Francisco and Chengdu.

Flights from San Francisco would depart for Chengdu on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, with non-stop return flights scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Should United received DOT approval, Chengdu would mark its ninth destination in the Asia/Pacific region with nonstop service from San Francisco, which United says surpasses all other U.S. airlines. United started its mainland China nonstop service in 1986.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.