China’s Hainan Airlines inaugurated its non-stop Beijing-Chicago service, its third such entry into North America.
The inaugural flight, using an Airbus 340 plane, arrived Tuesday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, but Hainan said it plans to use a Boeing 787 Dreamliner beginning November.
Currently, the company said it will operate two flights a week on Tuesdays and Sunday, but non-stop frequency will be doubled to four times a week starting December and daily from June 2014.
“The new route has been introduced to meet strong demand for business travel, as well as growing demand for leisure trips, between and beyond the cities,” the airline said. “It also complements the carrier’s existing North American service to Beijing from Toronto and Seattle/Tacoma.”
The Chicago Tribune said the non-stop flight takes about 12 hours.
Chicago-based United Airlines has sought U.S. Department of Transportation permission to start service from San Francisco to Chengdu, China’s fourth-largest city, using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. If approved, United said it will be the first U.S. carrier to serve China beyond Beijing and Shanghai.
The DOT approved Hainan’s Beijing-Chicago service in July of last year.
Securing new investment and interaction between Chicago and China is a high priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the new air service is a “critical step,” said Chicago Aviation Department Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino, adding investments in O’Hare’s amenities and services are key “to enhancing Chicago’s status as a world-class city.”
Zhao Weiping, Chinese consul general in Chicago, said the Hainan service will be “an important bridge” linking China and the U.S. Midwest and will bring more Chinese tourists, students, and entrepreneurs to Chicago and the U.S. Midwest, as well as carry more Americans to China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.