Chicago will be new airline connection for Fresno travelers

SkyWest Airlines will use Embraer E175 jets to operate United Express flights between Fresno and Chicago starting in June 2018.
SkyWest Airlines will use Embraer E175 jets to operate United Express flights between Fresno and Chicago starting in June 2018. SkyWest Airlines

United Airlines will add new daily summertime nonstop flights between Fresno and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport starting in June 2018, adding to the number of options available for Fresno travelers heading to the Midwest and beyond.

The once-daily evening flights will begin June 7, the city announced Monday afternoon.

“O’Hare is the fourth largest airport in the world,” Mayor Lee Brand said. “These new flights provide a greater opportunity and convenience for folks traveling to the Midwest or connecting to other destinations on the East Coast, or going on to Europe.” He added that it also provides greater access to Fresno for business people.

The Fresno-Chicago route is among a number of service additions that United is making to its national network. Chicago is a major hub for United, and at a distance of about 1,700 miles will become the easternmost nonstop destination from Fresno Yosemite International Airport. United currently flies between Fresno and Denver, while American Airlines provides nonstop service from Fresno to as far east as Dallas/Fort Worth.

According to United’s website, the flights will be operated by Utah-based SkyWest Airlines under the United Express brand. The route will be served by 76-seat Embraer E175 twin-engine jets. The daily flight from Chicago will arrive in Fresno at 10:16 p.m., while the return flight will leave Fresno at 11:01 p.m. and arrive in Chicago shortly after 5 a.m. CDT.

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United Airlines will provide nonstop flights between Fresno and Chicago from March 31 through Sept. 2 of 2019. TIM SHEEHAN tsheehan@fresnobee.com

“You could literally take off in a day, conduct your business that day in Chicago, and come back to Fresno,” Brand said.

“Chicago has always been a strong and popular destination,” said Kevin Meikle, Fresno’s director of aviation. “That is a major, major United Airlines hub, and other airlines are there, too. You can get to virtually anywhere in the world from Chicago.

United’s reservations system shows the Fresno-Chicago flights continuing through Aug. 20, 2018. Whether the service continues beyond that, Meikle said, could depend on how much passenger business the route generates for the airline. “Really it’s going to be up to us as a community to attract the business and fly out from here,” Meikle said. “The more successful this is, they’ll keep that up.”

“But when they come right out of the gate and commit to daily (service), that’s a big deal,” he added. “That says that they know there’s great potential in our market, seven days a week.”