China’s Hainan Airlines officially commenced non-stop service from Chicago to Beijing, opening the airline’s newest American gateway.
The airline will operate service out of Chicago twice per week on Tuesdays and Sundays. In November, subject to government approval, the airline plans to change aircraft type from an Airbus 340 to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and in December, the non-stop frequency will be doubled to four times per week. In June 2014, the flight frequency will increase to daily.
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. It also complements the carrier’s existing North American service to Beijing from Toronto and Seattle/Tacoma.
“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,” said Rosemarie S. Andolino, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation. “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.”
Hainan Airlines currently serves the Chicago – Beijing route with an Airbus A340-600 aircraft, seating 288 passengers in a spacious three-class cabin. Connections to and from points throughout China are possible and cargo service is also offered.
With the introduction of the Dreamliner, the aircraft will feature 36 fully flat-bed business seats configured 2-2-2, as well as 177 economy seats configured 3-3-3. Each seat has a 15-inch touch screen panel and a power outlet. Each business seat also has a USB port.
“Hainan Airlines has been operating the Dreamliner on Chinese domestic routes since July,” said Mr. Wei Hou, Vice President of 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.”
Currently, flight 498 will depart Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) at 3:25 pm and arrive in Beijing Capital International Airport at 7:05 pm the following day. Flight 497 will depart Beijing at 12:35 pm and arrive in Chicago at 1:25 pm the same day. Flight times are subject to change.
Among the dignitaries that attended the airline’s official launch in Chicago were Wei Hou, Vice President of Hainan Airlines and Weiping Zhao, Chinese Consul General in Chicago.
Business class passengers are pampered with priority check-in and access to the lounge. On board, they can relax in luxurious seats that convert into comfortable (160 degree reclining) seats and feature turn-down service complete with fluffy pillows, fine cotton sheets and a duvet, pajamas and slippers. First class passengers enjoy a fully flat bed with the same amenities, Gourmet Chinese or Western cuisine and wines are served on fine china, glassware and linens; customers may choose when they wish to dine. Freshly brewed coffee and a selection of teas are available. Individually controlled entertainment system offers over 100 movies, audio selections and games on demand.
In Beijing, with advance reservations, premium passengers are treated to complimentary private Mercedes-Benz limousine service both on arrival and departure. Those making connections to other Chinese destinations may take advantage of the new business class lounge in Terminal 1 offering a wide range of luxurious amenities.
Economy class passengers can also enjoy complimentary beverages, meals, snacks as well as the same on-demand entertainment system on individual seat-back screens. If connecting in Beijing, an exclusive transit lounge is open to economy class passengers as well.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, once service begins, will introduce an array of even more technologically advanced and elegant amenities to Hainan’s famed service.
(Image via CC BY-SA 2.0)