Business is booming in China. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, China is the third largest trade partner for the United States. As of April 2013, that amounted to over $167 billion dollars in total imports and exports. And nothing facilitates trade—and business—like a face-to-face meeting. But Americans wanting to travel to the Chinese mainland have had limited choices in terms of not only airlines but flights. In order to fly a five-star airline to China, Americans have been forced to head first to Seattle or Toronto—that is, until now.
Hainan Airlines, mainland China’s only Skytrax-certified five-star airline, has stepped up to the plate by opening its second American gateway: Chicago. To start things off on the right foot, er, wing, the airline is commencing nonstop flights from Chicago O’Hare to Beijing Capital International Airport, operating two flights per week, on Tuesdays and Sundays—a schedule that will double in frequency this December and then will turn into daily flights next summer. The new route has been introduced to meet the growing demand for business travel, as well as leisure trips, between the cities.
Only United and American Airlines fly nonstop between Chicago and Beijing. The new Hainan service will offer travelers another option—and one that provides the services and amenities of a five-star experience.
The Chicago–Beijing flights will be aboard an Airbus A340 until later this fall, when the airline—subject to government approval—will change to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, becoming the first Chinese airline to fly the Dreamliner from the U.S. to mainland China.
“Hainan Airlines has been operating the Dreamliner on Chinese domestic routes since July,” said Mr. Wei Hou, vice president of Hainan Airlines. “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.”
Passengers are pampered on Hainan, which is well known for its excellence in service. Business-class travelers receive priority check-in and lounge access prior to boarding and, onboard, they’re treated to excellent cuisine, luxurious seats that recline 160 degrees and a turn-down service—complete with fluffy pillows, fine cotton sheets, a duvet and pajamas and slippers. First-class passengers enjoy a fully flat bed with the same amenities, plus meals that feature gourmet Chinese or Western cuisine and fine wines and that are served on china, glassware and linens. Once in Beijing, with advance reservations, premium passengers are treated to complimentary private Mercedes-Benz limousine service both on arrival and departure.
Amenity kits feature exquisite Bulgari cosmetics and the individually controlled entertainment systems offers over 100 movies, audio selections and games on demand.
Economy-class passengers are not left out in the cold, either: They receive complimentary beverages, meals and snacks as well as individual seat-back screens that provide the same excellent on-demand entertainment system enjoyed by premium passengers.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, once service begins, will introduce an array of even more technologically advanced and elegant amenities to Hainan’s famed service, including 15-inch touch-screen panels and power outlets at every seat and USB ports in business class.
Both Chicago and Beijing stand to profit from Hainan’s new route. Rosemarie S. Andolino, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, said: “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.”