Fake News: United Airlines Will Fly Nonstop From Chicago to Johannesburg

by Anthony Losanno
an airplane flying over water

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United Airlines has the most impressive international route network of any US carrier. Over the past few years it has added flights to tons of secondary cities in Europe, multiple flights to Australia and New Zealand, and continues to add new destinations each year. Rumors are out today that the Chicago-based carrier will be adding nonstop flights between Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg starting in March.


United currently serves South Africa from both Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Flights to Cape Town International Airport (CPT) run 3x weekly and are daily to O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) from Newark. Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and Washington DC are also served 3x weekly.

If United adds service from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) it has not yet been speculated on frequency. It’s assumed that the carrier would employ a Boeing 787-9 for the 8,708 miles on this route. No official announcement has been made, but word has popped up here and from @JonNYC.

Anthony’s Take: We were supposed to fly to South Africa, but the pandemic cancelled those plans. If this new route comes to fruition, it will be really convenient for us to go. Unfortunately, this rumor has been debunked and UA has not confirmed this flight.

(Featured Image Credit: United Airlines.)

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Just Sayin September 20, 2023 - 7:02 pm

Any chance we could make those one way flights, starting with the mayor?

Emcampbe September 21, 2023 - 5:52 pm

Looking for clicks I guess? This seems to come from the publish now, verify later style. I suspect even just a few minutes of research would have concluded this was bunk. Especially from someone who follow the US airline industry a little more than casually.

As you may recall, what, a few months ago, DL and UA were fighting over the last US-S. Africa frequencies, when UA wanted to add IAD flights and DL wanted to add more flights from ATL. After that, no route authority was available.

Aside from that, JNB-ORD would I think be UAs longest route (beating IAH-SYD and SFO-SIN), and probably around the same distance as the previously announced SFO-BLR, which never started due to pandemic, and then the inability to use Russian airspace. Even for the latter, it was supposed to require a modification for extra range on the 787s being used (not sure if those were ever completed). However, with JNB hot and heavy, flying that same range eastbound would probably require a weight restriction. Airlines don’t generally like routes where they would be forced to keep seats empty so they can actually make it to the destination – and would affect potential profibility.

Call me extremely skeptical of this whole thing.


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