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CHICAGO — History will be made just after midnight tonight when the inaugural Hainan Airlines flight 706 departs O’Hare bound for Chengdu. This route between O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) will make Chicago the first and only interior city in the United States to offer nonstop scheduled passenger service to interior China. Chicago to Chengdu air service is expected to bring $35 million in annual economic impact to the Chicago region.
“New service to Chengdu from Hainan Airlines underscores the impact of our city’s transportation investments and burnishes O’Hare’s well-deserved status as the most connected airport in the nation,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “From the crossroads of America to the gateway of southwest China, we will continue investing in O'Hare's modernization to build on its world-class strength, while bringing more flights, more travelers, and more business to Chicago.”
The new Chengdu service will be offered twice weekly, with flights departing O’Hare on Tuesdays and Saturdays, arriving the following day, on a 213-seat B787-8 aircraft. The nonstop flight takes approximately 16 hours and five minutes outbound, and approximately 14 hours and 50 minutes inbound. In 2018, Hainan Airlines’ business class was rated the “Best Business Class in Asia” by SKYTRAX.
“The new route from Chicago to Chengdu is part of Hainan Airlines’ commitment to open up first and second-tier cities in China to the rest of the world,” says Hainan Airlines’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jason Liu. “We’re excited to offer people in the Midwest and beyond more nonstop flight options to China.”
So far in 2019, twelve new international routes from O’Hare have been announced, and ORD-CTU builds on a growing portfolio of service to China and throughout the Asian continent from O’Hare, including an existing service by Hainan to Beijing.
"New nonstop service to Chengdu and other exciting destinations continues to deliver more reasons to choose travel from O’Hare than ever before," said Jamie L. Rhee, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation. "We thank Hainan for investing to grow in Chicago for this historic service. Each new flight added makes Chicago more accessible to travelers and businesses from around the world and creates economic opportunity for the people right here at home.”
“We applaud the launching of this new nonstop service between Chengdu and Chicago, which reflects the close business and people-to-people links between our two nations and the role Chicago has to play,” said Zhao Jian, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago. “As the two largest economies in the world, China and the U.S. have great potential for cooperation in fields like economy, trade, aviation and tourism. I believe the offering of this new service will help to promote our cooperation to mutually benefit and bring our people ever closer.”
The expansion of new services is indicative of the strong partnership between the two countries, and it will benefit Chicago’s growing global business and trade partnerships across China, where more than 150 Chicago-area companies have operations. O’Hare has also become the preferred air cargo gateway for freight to and from China, with 25% of the country’s annual volume and value moved through O’Hare.
Chengdu, one of the fastest-growing cities in China, is in Sichuan province. It is famously known for its pandas, mouth-numbing spicy Sichuan food and unique face-changing opera. The renowned, 245-acre Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding attracts visitors from all over the world who come to see pandas in person. Passengers flying nonstop from Chicago to Chengdu have the option to continue their journey to cities such as Chongqing, Guiyang, Kunming, and many more via Hainan Airlines’ domestic flight network or China’s high-speed trains.
“The City of Chicago is ensuring O’Hare and Midway are the world’s top global gateways, offering the highest level of connectivity, most efficient service and the best amenities for travelers,” said 19th Ward Alderman and City Council Aviation Committee Chairman Matt O’Shea. “Projects at both airports will not only bring more travelers and flights to our city, but also create good-paying jobs for our residents and new opportunities for Chicago’s communities.”
The City of Chicago has made attracting new international air services to both airports a key priority. Significant new international flights added over the past decade — including 18 new nonstop international services added last year alone—are estimated to have had an approximately $2.7 billion annual impact on the Chicago-area economy.
In addition to generating historic levels of economic activity and tourism for the City and the region, added services to new and underserved regions of the world have propelled O’Hare as the best-connected hub in the U.S. for three years in a row and second most connected in the world. Presently, O’Hare is the only U.S. airport, and one of only five globally, to have nonstop passenger air service to all six major inhabited regions of the world (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America).
Chicago’s air connectivity stands to further thrive, with a modernized airfield and $8.5 billion plan by the City and the airlines to set the stage for O’Hare’s biggest terminal expansion yet. The O’Hare 21 project is designed to modernize facilities, deliver more gates, new passenger amenities, more economic opportunity for the City of Chicago, and keep travelers worldwide connected to Chicago.
For more information about Hainan and to purchase tickets, please visit www.hainanairlines.com.