Chicago, Illinois is joining an elite club of international cities that offer direct air service to every continent on the planet. With the launch of three Ethiopian Airlines flights, Chicago O’Hare International Airport will have at least one flight departing for the six major inhabited land masses on Earth by November 2018.
Chicago will have something in common with Doha, Dubai, London and Johannesburg by the end of the year: their airports offer direct air service to every continent. The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago O’Hare International Airport joined the elite club with the addition of an Ethiopian Airlines flight.
On Monday, June 11, the first of three weekly flights between Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) and ORD landed in Chicago, adding service direct to Africa. With the flights, the airport is only one destination short of becoming the Americas’ only airport to offer service to every inhabited land mass.
The final piece will officially start in November 2018, when Air New Zealand begins flying to ORD. That’s when the flag carrier will offer regularly scheduled service to and from Auckland Airport (AKL).
This important designation comes as Chicago pursues an ambitious upgrade and expansion plan for their largest international airport. In February 2018, the city sought an $8.5 billion package to create a “Global Terminal” and add more gates to the major air terminal. The plan was contested by both of ORD’s hub tenants, American Airlines and United Airlines, over alleged deals made with the competing airline. However, both agreed to the expansion plan when more common-use gates were added.
But the number of carriers isn’t the only thing expanding at ORD. According to statistics provided by the Chicago Department of Aviation to the Tribune, airport executives brought in 12.4 million new passengers from new international flights in the 12 months ending September 2017. During the 2018 Memorial Day travel period, an estimated 1.7 million passengers alone transited through ORD and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), an increase of 2.3 percent from 2017.