Air New Zealand's has launched its longest non-stop flight, with a new Auckland-Chicago route taking off on Friday.
Flight NZ26 departed Auckland International Airport at 4.55pm on Friday and landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport at 1pm local time. The route takes about 15 hours northbound and 16 hours southbound. It covers a distance of more than 13,500 km.
It supersedes the Auckland-Houston route as the airline's longest flight, which has a flight time of 13.5 hours. It's also the longest regular non-stop flight to ever land at O'Hare Airport.
The flight represent New Zealand's first ever direct link with the American midwest and is anticipated to provide a convenient link for passengers travelling to other destinations across the US.
The Auckland-Chicago service will operate three times a week, departing Auckland on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Air New Zealand is flying the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on the route.
The airline has been targeting Australian travellers to the United States since launching a campaign in 2016 encouraging them to fly to there via Auckland.
Australian travellers are spoilt for choice on flight options to the US with the days of Los Angeles being the only inbound option long gone and five airlines offering non-stop flights to the US mainland from several Australian cities, in addition to Air NZ's routes via Auckland.
These include Qantas (LA, San Francisco and Dallas), Virgin Australia (LA), United Airlines (LA, San Francisco and Houston), American Airlines (LA) and Delta Air Lines (LA). Air New Zealand now offers flights from Australia via Auckland to LA, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.
Non-stop, ultra-long-haul flights have become increasingly popular with airlines in recent years, as more fuel-efficient aircraft capable of longer distances have been developed.
Qantas is aiming to launch non-stop flights from Australia's east coast capitals to New York as part of its Project Sunrise plan, aiming to take off in 2022, which would also include non-stop flights to London. At present no aircraft can make these distances, but Qantas has thrown down a challenge to manufacturers Airbus and Boeing to develop a plane that can.