Hainan Airlines Launches new Chicago Service

Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines last week launched a new route between Beijing’s Capital International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport and it is now gearing up for the introduction of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route from November this year.  The new long-haul link was originally devised to be flown by the 787 but the enforced grounding earlier this year and subsequent delivery delays mean that it is initially being flown with an Airbus A340-600.

The inaugural service arrived at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 on September 3, 2013 after receiving a customary water cannon salute from the Chicago Fire Department while making its way from the runway to the apron.  It is the second destination to be served by the Chinese carrier in the US and third in North America.  Hainan Airlines made its debut in the region in 2008 when it introduced flights between Beijing and Seattle, a route it serves on a daily basis during the peak summer season, while a link between Beijing and Toronto, Canada was added in 2010.

A large number of dignatries from China and US were in Chicago to welcome the arrival of the inaugural flight.  "I am pleased to welcome a Hainan's new airline service to Chicago, bringing business and leisure customers while creating jobs and economic opportunity at the airport and throughout the city," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Hainan Airlines has been operating the Dreamliner on Chinese domestic routes since July.  After extensive training and operating experience, we are planning to introduce the Dreamliner on Hainan's North American routes initially between Beijing and Chicago, and as the fleet grows to Seattle, Toronto and other new destinations.”

Wei Hou
Vice President, Hainan Airlines

"New international routes will not only have tremendous benefits to the city's economy, but Hainan's new service from Chicago to Beijing will further connect Chicago with China, Asia and the rest of the world," he added.

This new air service will not only support the increasing demand for direct services between Beijing and Chicago but also provide connectivity to other destinations at each end of the route.  Hainan offers more than 400 weekly flights from its Beijing hub, including service to more than 60 Chinese cities.  At Chicago, passengers will be able to access a wide variety of connections in the US and the Americas through Hainan’s codeshare agreement with American Airlines.

Hainan Airlines enters a market already served by both American Airlines and United Airlines.  According to MIDT data, an estimated 115,437 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Beijing and Chicago in 2012 with United holding a 65 per cent share and American a 21 per cent share of this traffic.  The 2012 demand figure represented an 8.9 per cent rise on the level in 2011, which itself was up 27.0 per cent on the previous year, showing the strong growth of this market.

The new Beijing – Chicago route will initially be operated on a twice weekly basis with the three-class A340-600 providing seating for 288 passengers.  Hainan plans to introduce the Dreamliner on the service from November 10, 2013, making it the first international route operated by Hainan's new B787 aircraft and the first transpacific route operated by the type from O'Hare.  The arrival of the 787, which is configured with 36 Business Class and 177 Economy seats will initially result in a reduction in capacity but from December 10, 2013 Hainan Airlines will double its schedule to four times weekly and it plans to grow to a daily operation from the end of May 2014.

09092013 Hainan Chicago
Officials celebrate new flight service by Hainan Airlines. (Left-right) Andrew Spinelli, Assoc.Dir. Mayor's Office of International Relations and Protocol; Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st Ward); Rosemarie S. Andolino, Commissioner, CDA; Wei Hou, VP, Hainan Airlines; Weiping Zhao, Chinese Consul General in Chicago; Jenny Cizner, Director, Mayor's Office of International Relations and Protocol and Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd Ward).

"Hainan Airlines has been operating the Dreamliner on Chinese domestic routes since July," explained Wei Hou, vice president, Hainan Airlines.  "After extensive training and operating experience, we are planning to introduce the Dreamliner on Hainan's North American routes initially between Beijing and Chicago, and as the fleet grows to Seattle, Toronto and other new destinations.  The increased frequencies will make our schedules more attractive to business travelers as well."

With the addition of Hainan's service, O'Hare now has 44 weekly passenger flights to China: Beijing (American Airlines, United Airlines, Hainan Airlines); Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific, United Airlines) and Shanghai (American Airlines, United Airlines).  Among US airports, Chicago O'Hare has the third highest number of weekly passenger flights to China.  "This is an important step in expanding economic links between Chicago and China in order to boost Illinois exports, attract foreign capital and create jobs here at home," said Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).

“Securing new investment and interaction between Chicago and China is a high priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and new air service from Hainan, a mainland China-based carrier, is a critical step in that direction.  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,” added Rosemarie S. Andolino, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation.