Air New Zealand will introduce a non-stop service between Auckland and Chicago in November – New Zealand’s first ever direct link to the third largest city in the US.
The airline will operate the new route three times a week from November 30, 2018 with its new configuration Boeing 787-Dreamliner aircraft.
The flight time will be about 15 hours there and just over 16 hours on the way back.
“We expect Chicago to be an attractive option for Australians and Kiwis wanting to explore the city or head on to other North American destinations,” says Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon.
“More than one million Australians travel to the US every year so this new route will provide an opportunity to explore deeper into the US.”
The new service is expected to provide Australian travellers with a more seamless experience transiting through Auckland, where customers can remain in the same terminal. Eligible frequent flyers will also be able to utilise Air New Zealand’s flagship lounge.
With codeshare partner United Airlines offering more flights out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport than any other airline, there will be easy connections to some 100 destinations across the US, the carrier said.
Travel agencies expect the new route to be popular, have already witnessed an increase in the number of travellers to the US.
“The new route departing New Zealand to Chicago not only provides a great holiday destination but also alternative options for travellers heading to the East Coast of the United States or an easy stopover if going further afield to Europe,” House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said.
The travel agency saw a dramatic lift in passenger numbers when Air New Zealand began flying to Houston in 2015, and expects to see the same uptake with the Chicago route, he said.
“Chicago is a city that has something for everyone; world-class museums and art galleries, Michelin-star restaurants, more than 250 theatres, amazing lakefront walks and bike lanes and an enthusiastic sporting culture. There is plenty to do and see during an extended stay or short break.”
Flight Centre NZ general manager product, Sean Berenson, said the agency has seen an almost 10 per cent rise in the number of customers travelling to North America this year.
Travel to Chicago has increased by 35 per cent in the first three months of 2018, he said, adding that he expects the new route to stimulate more interest.
“The starting point for Route 66, Chicago, “The Jewel of the Midwest”, is one of those unique cities that is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.
“We welcome the opening of new routes. Greater choice for our customers is always a good thing as we often see it drive competition – great news for travellers.”
Meanwhile, Qantas is evaluating direct flights from Australia to Chicago as the next step in its plan to add more ultra-long-haul destinations using an expanding fleet of Boeing 787 jetliners.
Fresh from launching the first-ever direct passenger service to Europe – linking Perth with London’s Heathrow hub – Qantas will turn its attention to the US with the next batch of four 787s due for delivery this year, Chief Executive Office Alan Joyce said in an interview Tuesday.
A new service from Melbourne to San Francisco starting in September has already been announced and 787s will also replace 747 jumbos on Qantas’s existing Brisbane-Los Angeles-New York route. But also in the carrier’s thinking is a direct Brisbane-Chicago service or flights from the Queensland city to Seattle or Dallas, Joyce revealed at the Aviation Club in London.
The same analysis of a decade of wind and weather data that was applied to the Perth-Heathrow route has shown that all three destinations would be reachable with a standard passenger load, though flights wouldn’t begin until Qantas wins antitrust immunity for a joint venture with American Airlines.
Oneworld alliance partners American and Qantas in February asked US regulators for a second time for permission to coordinate fares and schedules and share costs and revenue on trans-Pacific flights.
“We’re hopeful we could get through that in six months,” the CEO said, adding that the chosen service “could start as soon as the peak season, which is at the end of the year.”