CHICAGO – The inaugural flight from Beijing to Chicago by China’s Hainan Airlines arrived today at O’Hare International Airport. Hainan is a brand new international carrier for the Chicago market. Today’s flight arrival was celebrated with a water cannon salute on O’Hare’s airfield by the Chicago Fire Department and a ribbon cutting ceremony at O’Hare Terminal 5.
"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. "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.”
Hainan’s Chicago-Beijing route will initially operate two times weekly on Tuesday and Sunday using a three-class (first, business and economy) 288-seat Airbus A340-600 aircraft. Hainan Airlines Flight 498 will depart Chicago at 3:25 p.m. and arrive in Beijing at 7:05 p.m. the following day. Flight 497 will depart Beijing at 12:35 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 1:25 p.m. the same day. Flight times are subject to change.
Hainan plans to introduce a B787 Dreamliner on its Chicago-Beijing route beginning November 10, 2013, making it the first international route operated by Hainan’s new B787 aircraft and the first transpacific route operated by a B787 from O’Hare. On December 10, 2013, the Chicago-Beijing service is scheduled to increase to four times weekly (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).
From its Beijing hub, Hainan offers more than 400 weekly flights, including service to more than 60 Chinese cities. At Chicago, passengers will be able to access a wide variety of connections in the U.S. and abroad. Hainan currently has a code share agreement in place with American Airlines.
Among the Chinese dignitaries that attended the airline’s official launch in Chicago were Wei Hou, Vice President of Hainan Airlines Co., LTD and Weiping Zhao, Chinese Consul General in Chicago.
“Hainan Airlines has been operating the Dreamliner on Chinese domestic routes since July,” said Hou. “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.”
Hainan is a customer service-oriented airline, providing features such as complimentary limousine service for long-haul premium travelers in Beijing, flat bed seats, upgraded amenities and gourmet meals. The carrier has recently received several awards for its customer service and is presently one of only five airlines globally to hold five-star quality certification by Skytrax (received in 2011, 2012 and 2013), as well as being voted the "Best Airline in China" twice by Premier Traveler magazine.
"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," Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said. "With our centralized location and access to roads, rail and other airport destinations, there is no better place to enter the North American market than O'Hare. I applaud Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Andolino for their efforts in securing this new Beijing-Chicago route."
“We are thrilled to welcome Hainan Airlines’ first-class service to Chicago’s global gateway, O’Hare International Airport,” said Rosemarie S. Andolino, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation. “New nonstop service between Chicago and Beijing creates tremendous opportunities to grow business and tourism between our global cities as well as create new economic activity and new jobs for our region. Hainan joins a robust array of international and domestic carriers that serve the Chicago market.”
Hainan Airlines began scheduled air service in 1993 and is one of the world’s fastest growing airlines. The carrier launched its first U.S. service in 2008 between Beijing and Seattle, currently operating as a daily service during the peak summer season, and added Beijing to Toronto, Canada in 2010.
O’Hare currently serves approximately 200 destinations, including 55 international and 140+ domestic destinations.
With the addition of Hainan’s service, O’Hare now has 44 weekly passenger flights to China: Beijing (American, United, Hainan); Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific, United) and Shanghai (American, United). Among U.S. airports, Chicago O’Hare has the third highest number of weekly passenger flights to China.