Hainan Airlines to begin direct Chicago flights

Updated: 2013-01-29 11:42

By Deng Yu in Seattle (China Daily)

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Hainan Airlines to begin direct Chicago flights

Hainan Airlines on Monday announced that it will begin a nonstop service between Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Beijing in early September.

Hainan will fly Airbus A330-200 aircraft configured for "premium" business and coach classes on the route.

Starting Sept 3, there will be two flights - one in each direction - every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, for a total of eight a week. Flight 498 will depart O'Hare at 3:30 pm Chicago time and arrive at 6:40 pm the following day; Flight 497 is scheduled to leave Beijing at 1:20 pm and land at O'Hare at 1:30 pm the same day.

Cargo service will be offered, the airline said.

Chicago officials welcomed the move.

"Securing new investment and interaction between Chicago and China is a high priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and new air service from Hainan, a carrier based in Chinese mainland, is a critical step in that direction," Rosemarie Andolino, the city's aviation commissioner, said in a statement. "We continue to invest in O'Hare's amenities and services for travelers across the globe, including those from Asia."

Liang Pubin, North American managing director for Hainan, pointed to the carrier's top ranking based on surveys of airline passengers by UK-based Inflight Research Services.

"As a Skytrax five-star airline, we have been providing consistently safe, high-quality service and have received praise from customers for our Beijing-Seattle route since 2008. However, passengers look for flexibility and variety," he said.

"We expect the new route connecting Chicago to offer a greater variety of travel options for passengers in both countries, and I believe more and more will know, like and trust Hainan."

The airline is "looking forward to welcoming more travelers from Chicago and throughout the eastern United States", said Ji Chun Liu, director of Hainan's international division. "China is on its way to becoming both the world's largest international destination as well as a source of travelers so that the market continues to expand."

The Chinese government this month introduced a policy of allowing visa-free transit of up to 72 hours through Beijing for citizens of the US and 44 other countries. The change is meant to enhance the capital's status as a hub for international travel.

Hainan's premium business class includes priority check-in and access to the airport lounge. Passengers are provided seats that convert to a flat bed, along with other amenities. Meals consist of gourmet Chinese or Western cuisine. There is also espresso, a selection of teas and gift bags featuring Bulgari cosmetics. An entertainment system offers over 100 movies, audio selections and games on demand.

With a reservation, premium-class fliers can get a free, private ride to and from the Beijing airport in a Mercedes-Benz limousine.

Economy-class passengers also get free meals, beverages and snacks as well as the same state-of-the-art entertainment system on individual seat-back screens. Those connecting in Beijing have access to Hainan's transit lounge.

Hainan Airlines, founded in 1993, is owned by Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. With a 119-aircraft fleet, it carries 23.3 million passengers a year. In addition to its large domestic market, Hainan flies to European cities including Berlin, Brussels, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Zurich, as well as destinations in Africa and across Asia.