United Airlines plans new Hong Kong, Tel Aviv routes from Chicago

Jul 7, 2020

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United Airlines plans to launch two new routes to Hong Kong and Tel Aviv in September, as the carrier continues to slowly return to long-haul international markets even as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating.

The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier will offer its first-ever nonstop between Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Tel Aviv (TLV) from September, United said. The flights will operate three-days-a-week on a Boeing 787-9 jet outfitted with 48 business class and up to 209 economy seats.

In addition, United will relaunch nonstop service between Chicago and Hong Kong (HKG) in September. The route, which the airline ended last September after 23 years, will operate just once a week with a Boeing 777-300ER with 60 Polaris business class, 24 Premium Plus premium economy and 266 economy seats.

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The airline also plans to resume service between Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD) in September, and Washington Dulles (IAD) and Tel Aviv (TLV) in October. Both routes will be flown with a 787-9.

“As we continue rebuilding our international network, we look forward to offering customers more opportunities to travel between the U.S. and Hong Kong, Sydney and Tel Aviv,” said Patrick Quayle, vice president of international network and alliances at United, in a statement.

Earlier in July, Quayle told media that the carrier’s long-haul international additions were all in response to “demand in the marketplace today.”

Related: United Airlines doubles Newark flights, adds 9 long-haul international routes in August

International flying is coming back much slower than domestic travel. Border restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 are keeping most would-be long-haul travelers near home.

The largest industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), does not expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or 2024.

United’s plans to expand and resume service to Hong Kong, Sydney and Tel Aviv are dependent on government approvals. They could be delayed — or even shelved — depending on the path of the pandemic that, for example, is surging again in Israel.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

While United has been hit hard by travel restrictions, the airline has also been able to fly a more extensive international network than some of its peers on the back of freight and repatriation travel. For example to Europe, the airline’s flights have been filled predominantly with European Union citizens returning home rather than Americans going abroad for holiday or work.

The pandemic has forced American Airlines to reevaluate its long-haul network. It has dropped six largely leisure-oriented international destinations from its map and ended service on 19 routes.

Below are the details of United’s plans for the new and resumed routes.

  • Chicago O’Hare – Hong Kong: Sunday eastbound; Tuesday westbound
  • Chicago O’Hare – Tel Aviv: Monday, Thursday and Saturday westbound; Monday, Wednesday and Saturday eastbound
  • Los Angeles – Sydney: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday westbound; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday eastbound
  • Washington Dulles – Tel Aviv: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday eastbound; Tuesday, Friday and Sunday westbound

Related: Air travel recovery may come slower than expected

Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.

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