Chicago-area travelers headed for Israel won’t have to fly through Boston or New York for too much longer.
Starting in March 2020, El Al Israel Airlines will offer the first non-stop service between O’Hare Airport and Tel Aviv in more than 20 years.
Chicago will become one of just a handful of U.S. cities and the only one in the Midwest to offer non-stop service to Israel. It’s a move billed as a $70 million-a-year shot in the arm for the local economy.
El Al will fly from O’Hare to Tel Aviv three times a week — on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays — using 282-seat Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
In a press release touting the expansion, City Hall called it a “direct result” of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “diplomatic efforts to increase trade and collaboration with Israel.”
Emanuel is Chicago’s first Jewish mayor. His father is an Israeli immigrant.
Over the last eight years, the soon-to-be-retired mayor has made periodic trips to Israel to “promote investment and innovation by Israeli companies” in Chicago, City Hall said.
Two years ago, Emanuel joined Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in signing the Chicago Tel Aviv Yafo Partnership to advance “collaboration between the two cities on economic development, innovation, research, education and river rehabilitation projects,” according to City Hall.
“New service to Tel Aviv by El Al Israel Airlines is proof that our investments in O’Hare are paying off as more people around the world want to travel to Chicago than ever before,” Emanuel was quoted as saying of his $8.7 billion O’Hare expansion project.
“From the Midwest to the Middle East, O’Hare is making what’s already the best-connected city in the nation more accessible for travelers throughout the world.”
Israel’s Consul General Aviv Ezra said there is “no better way to connect the State of Israel to the city of Chicago” than to provide non-stop service between O’Hare and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
“We look forward to getting Israelis addicted to deep dish pizza and Chicagoans hooked on hummus,” Ezra was quoted as saying.
The mayor’s $8.7 billion expansion plan calls for demolishing Terminal 2 and replacing it with a new “global terminal” shared by United and American that would accept both domestic and international flights.
O’Hare would become the first so-called “global alliance hub” in the nation. It will allow domestic airlines and the international carriers they partner with to be in the same terminal — and that means passengers connecting to international flights will avoid the delay and inconvenience of riding the O’Hare people mover to the international terminal.