Hainan Airlines Confirms Start Date for Chicago Service

Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has this week announced that it plans to begin non-stop services between Beijing Capital International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport from September 3, 2013 around two months later than originally planned.  The company has also revealed the four times weekly route will be served using a two-class Airbus A330-200 rather than using its brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which are due for delivery this year.

Hainan Airlines announced its intent to inaugurate flights to the US during the first half of 2013 using its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and made a formal application to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) on June 18, 2012 for permission to serve Chicago from the Chinese capital.  No objections were filed to the application which meets with the terms of the current US - China aviation air services agreement so approval was granted the following month with a tentative July 2013 launch date revealed.

"Securing new investment and interaction between Chicago and China is a high priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and new air service from Hainan Airlines, a mainland China-based carrier, is a critical step in that direction," said Rosemarie S. Andolino, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation. "We continue to invest in O'Hare's amenities and services for travelers across the globe, including those from Asia.  These investments, coupled with new service, are all key to enhancing Chicago's status as a world-class city."

There is currently no non-stop service between Chicago and Beijing by a Chinese carrier using its own aircraft, although both American Airlines and United Airlines provide daily services.  The new route is expected to generate approximately $80-85 million in annual local economic impact.  "International travel from China is one of the fastest-growing sources of visitors to the US.  In fact Chinese tourists spend more than $6,000 per trip," added Andolino.

Hainan Airlines has been analysing a number of new markets across North America as it makes preparations for the delivery of the first of its Dreamliners, but as the switch to an A330-200 on this Chicago route shows, these plans have been disrupted by the ongoing grounding of the new generation jet.  The Chinese carrier has ten 787s on order and was due to receive its first aircraft during the second half of last year.  Once it does receive the aircraft, to comply with local legislation, they will initially be used on domestic and regional routes for a three month period, before expanding into long-haul markets.

The Chinese carrier was one of the early customers for the modern generation Dreamliner and originally committed to receive eight aircraft in a deal announced in September 2005 and formalised just two months later.  A subsequent conversion of two options in January 2007 has increased the airline’s commitment to ten units and the type will drive the airline’s ambitious network growth.

Hainan Airlines already serves the North American market with existing direct links to Seattle Tacoma and Toronto Lester B Pearson International from Beijing Capital International Airport, but until now its focus has been more on the local Asian region, supported by strategic developments in Africa and Europe.  With Hainan Airlines it is not necessarily all about the largest markets as the airline has been happy to pick up traffic rights to some of smaller European hubs, such as Brussels, Berlin and Zurich, allowing its major rivals to concentrate on serving the main gateways.

"Since we began our Seattle route in June 2008, hundreds of thousands of people have experienced the award-winning service Hainan Airlines provides between the United States and China," said Mr. Ji Chun Liu, Director of Hainan's International Department. "Now we are looking forward to welcoming even more travelers from Chicago and throughout the eastern United States."

Speaking to The HUB at last year’s Routes Asia forum in Chengdu, China, a senior network planning executive confirmed that the 787’s range and operating efficiency meant that many routes that could not previously be operated economically with the airline’s existing Airbus A330 equipment would now be possible.  “The Dreamliner will enable us to look at new markets and the aircraft are earmarked for expansion into North America in particular,” he said.  Hainan Airlines plans to configure its 787s in a two-class arrangement with 36 Business Class and 179 Economy seats, providing accommodation for 215 passengers in total. 

Share this article

Routes World Event Brochure

Routes World 2022 will unite airlines, airports and aviation stakeholders from across the globe to build air services for the economic and social good of every destination. As the...

Download Brochure