Great news for travelers in Chicago-land area and really the Midwest in general. Chicago will have its first non-stop flight to Africa starting June 2nd, courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines. West Bound passengers will depart Addis Ababa and arrive in Chicago via Dublin. East Bound passengers will fly non-stop to Addis Ababa and will be able to connect to any of the 55 cities Ethiopian Airlines serves throughout Africa. The flights will be operated on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and you can read more about that here. Currently, Ethiopian Airlines flies to Washington D.C, Newark, and Los Angeles.
There is speculation that Air New Zealand will announce non-stop service from Auckland to Chicago during President Obama’s visit to New Zealand next month. This route would be served on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with a flight time pushing 17 hours. You can read a bit more about that here.
Since both airlines are Star Alliance members, you could use United miles to book an award flight on either airline. If you’re flush with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer into United or Singapore Airlines (another Star Alliance member) to book an award flight. Redemption rates may vary so always check the redemption chart prior to transferring.
While Chicago is an international gateway for many cities in Asia, South America, Middle East, Central America, and Europe, it always lacked a non-stop flight to Africa. I’ve never flown on Ethiopian Airlines but they do have an excellent product with lie-flat seats in first and business class so it’s something to consider if you’re considering an award redemption to Africa. Air New Zealand also has a very good premium cabin so if the Air New Zealand non-stop to Auckland comes to fruition, it will also make travel to Australia a bit easier. It might be just a matter of time before we see Qantas initiate a Sydney or Brisbane non-stop to Chicago.