United Airlines begins new route from Chicago to Delhi

United Airlines has officially started a new long-haul flight between Chicago and New Delhi. The first flight took off at night from Chicago on December 10 and arrived in India about 14 hours later. With a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the airline plans to fly this route every day.

United Airlines Boeing 787
United Airlines has started flights between Chicago and New Delhi. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

United inaugurates services from Chicago to Delhi

On December 10, United Flight 898 spent just under 14 hours in the air from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). In a year of relative pain for the airline, this flight marked the beginning of what United hopes will be a turning point as the airline moves beyond the crisis to profitability.

United Airlines’ first flight from Delhi to Chicago, Flight 899, took off on December 12. That flight lasted a little longer, around 15 hours in the air.

Air India is the only other airline that flies nonstop between Chicago and Delhi. The Indian flag carrier, a Star Alliance partner, operates the route using Boeing 777 aircraft. Compared to United Airlines, Air India offers a less competitive inflight product, especially in business class.

The plane

United is flying a Boeing 787-9 between Chicago and New Delhi. According to data from Flightradar24, United’s maiden flight was operated by N26967, a four-year-old Boeing 787-9.

United Airlines is currently flying one of its older Boeing 787 products to India on this route. United’s oldest 787s feature 48 seats in Polaris Business Class, 88 in Economy with more legroom and 116 in Economy.

United 787 business class
Business Class aboard United’s unadapted 787s. Photo: Getty Images

The aircraft operating this route has the airline’s oldest Polaris product, equipped with a 2-2-2 forward-facing flat configuration. In due course, the airline is working to modernize its Boeing 787-9s to include the airline’s newest Polaris product and premium economy.

United also flies nonstop between San Francisco and New Delhi using a Boeing 787-9. Similarly, that plane also has the airline’s oldest business class product.

Passengers who want to fly Premium Plus, United’s Premium Economy Class, or the new Polaris product should look for flights from Newark to Delhi. United flies Boeing 777s on this route.

The first of United’s great long-distance expansion

In September, United Airlines announced seven new nonstop long-haul routes, including five international ones. The other six upcoming routes are:

  1. Dulles (IAD) To Accra (ACC)
  2. IAD to Lagos (LOS)
  3. Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB)
  4. San Francisco (SFO) to Bangalore (BLR)
  5. EWR to Kahului, Maui (OGG)
  6. ORD to Kona (KOA)

Most of the other routes will start from spring 2021. This includes United’s route to Bangalore, which will be the longest in the airline’s network and will connect the two major tech cities.

United 787
The Boeing 787 has helped fuel United’s long-haul expansions. Photo: Getty Images

United Airlines announced these new routes taking advantage of the situation. In the midst of the current crisis, South African Airways flights between Africa and the United States were suspended. And, given the current state of the airline, United will have these routes to itself.

On flights to India, United has a better reputation than Air India. It will definitely hold its own given its strength and ability to provide smoother home connections. United also has an agreement with Vistara to share codes in India.

The new Chicago-to-Delhi route is part of United tapping into demand for flights to India, while some of its competitors, including Delta, remain out of the market.

Are you happy to see United Airlines launch flights between Chicago and Delhi? Let us know in the comments!