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World's largest commercial airliner will start operating out of Chicago for the first time



Aug 8, 2017, 12:24pm CDT
Lewis Lazare ReporterChicago Business Journal



[The British Airways Airbus 380 seats 469 passengers in four cabins.

[The British Airways Airbus 380 service will begin regularly scheduled daily service between Chicago and London in May of 2018.


Get ready Chicago. A really big jumbo jet is headed your way.

British Airways is starting regularly-scheduled double-decker Airbus 380 service between Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport.

[The British Airways Airbus 380 service will begin regularly scheduled daily service between Chicago and London in May of 2018.]

Just days after United Airlines operated what may be the carrier's last scheduled Boeing 747 service out of Chicago, British Airways said today it will launch daily, year-round A-380 service between Chicago and London beginning May 8.

The A-380 has for some time now been the largest commercial airliner operating globally, but Chicago never has been served by the impressive aircraft until now.

The British Airways A-380 can accommodate up to 469 customers in four cabins across two full decks running the length of the aircraft.

The First cabin features 14 suites with 30 percent more personal space than other iterations of First on British Airways planes. The Club World business class cabin will be outfitted with 97 lie-flat seats. The World Traveler Plus premium economy cabin will seat 55, with a whopping 303 seats available in the World Traveler economy cabin.

Like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A-380 has an advanced air conditioning system that reportedly allows for 15 different temperature control zones with cabin air that is refreshed every three minutes.

British Air's on-demand entertainment system on the A-380 includes more than 1,600 hours of programming with 130 movies, 650 television shows and a wide-ranging selection of audio programming.

The new A-380 service will become one of the two daily flights between Chicago and London that BA has been operating for some time.

Noted Simon Brooks, British Airways' senior vice president sales for North America: "We're delighted to be the first airline to offer regularly scheduled service on the A-380 between Chicago and London. For those traveling for business to London or customers heading to Europe on vacation, this is an exceptional start to their travels."

British Airways also took pains in its announcement today to make note of its trans-Atlantic business partnership with American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL), which has its third-largest hub at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Both carriers also are part of the One World global airline alliance. Together AA and BA operate six flights daily between Chicago and London. But the introduction of the A-380 will increase the total number of daily seats available on flights operated by the two carriers on the route by almost 20 percent.

Though BA and AA are business partners, the A-380 soon will be the new airplane on the block at O'Hare, which could give BA a slight advantage in attracting high-margin premium cabin travelers on a heavily-trafficked route.

But a spokeswoman for AA said today the carrier will continue to operate only Dreamliners on its four Chicago-London flights. That will certainly enable AA to effectively counter the considerable competition that the A-380 represents.

Chicago-based United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) may be the carrier that suffers the most on the popular ORD-LON route, as it continues to operate principally the older, less technologically advanced Boeing 767 aircraft on three flights daily between Chicago and London.

Meanwhile, all that remains to be seen is how well O'Hare Airport will be able to handle the regular arrival of an Airbus 380 at the international Terminal 5.

The Chicago Department of Aviation last year retrofitted one gate at the terminal to handle the massive double-decker plane. Emirates flew in one its many A-380's to test out the new gate at O'Hare. Everything appeared to go smoothly on that test run last year.

Added Ginger Evans, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation: "Chicago is always looking for ways to offer our passengers new and improved options for international travel. Thanks to our partners at British Airways, we will bring more visitors directly to our city on one of the largest and most exciting aircraft in the world."

British Airways is a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group (NYSE: ICAGY).