ROUTES: Chicago seeks to fill international gaps

Las Vegas
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The city of Chicago is targeting new international service to fill the gaps in its already globe-spanning network, says aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino.

“There are still more markets we don’t service,” she says on the sidelines of World Routes 2013 in Las Vegas on 6 October.

Andolino uses greater China as an example. While Chicago O’Hare International has strong service to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Hainan Airlines and United Airlines, opportunities exist to connect Chicago to cities like Guangzhou, Chengdu and Xi’an, she says.

South America is another opportunity. The city has met with LAN Airlines and TAM to discuss new service, and with local hub carriers American and United about expanding service to the continent, says Andolino.

United is the only airline with a nonstop to South America, flying daily to Sao Paulo.

In July, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) denied an application from American for seven US-Brazil frequencies to launch a new Chicago-Sao Paulo flight in November 2014.

Australia and Russia are two additional markets that Chicago thinks are possible with the latest generation of long-range narrowbodies, like the Boeing 787, says Andolino.

The Middle East is no longer a main focus for Chicago. Andolino says that with flights from O’Hare to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways and to Doha on Qatar Airways, a flight on Emirates to Dubai is not at the top of the city’s wish list.

Chicago told Flightglobal in February that it expected Emirates to launch a new flight by the end of the year.

Gate space in O’Hare’s international terminal 5 may be a limiting factor for Chicago’s ambitions.

“It’s crowded,” says Andolino on the terminal’s 21 contact gates at peak times. The city is focused on spreading out international flights to more hours of the day and moving departures on American and United’s alliance partners to the hub carrier’s respective terminals 3 and 1, she adds.

“However, there’s not a route I will turn down,” she says. “I will find a way.”