New United nonstop to China 成 都

Chengdu is home to China's giant panda as well as 14 million residents (Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantin)

Chengdu is home to China’s giant panda population as well as 14 million residents (Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantin)

成 都

United Airlines will begin flying nonstop from San Francisco (SFO) to Chengdu (CTU), China’s fourth largest city, starting next June pending approval from the Dept of Transportation. United intends to use its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route, which will run three times weekly.

United will be the first US carrier to serve Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan with a population of 14 million. Sichuan is perhaps best known for its spicy cuisine such as Kung Pao chicken…it’s also the stomping ground of the giant Panda bear.

Current roundtrip economy fares for one-stop flights from SFO to Chengdu are in the $1300 range. Business class is around $4200.

chengduThe proposed flight will depart SFO at 1:35 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and arrive at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport at 6:50 p.m. the following day (all times local). Service from Chengdu will depart at 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrive at SFO 8:50 a.m. the same day.

Flying times will be approximately 14 hours, 15 minutes westbound (phew!) and 13 hours, 50 minutes eastbound.  This new nonstop flight will shave nearly four hours off the current travel time between the two cities which requires a stopover and plane change.

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United’s China flights offer amenities designed for Chinese customers, including: Mandarin-speaking flight attendants; personalized in-flight entertainment options, including Chinese-language services; and Chinese-style cuisine.

Have you ever been to Chengdu? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

Chris McGinnis


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  • Matt

    Thanks. Very interesting. I just did an intra Asia run on Turkish Airlines between Bangkok and Hanoi, and that would make a lot of sense here except that then United would have to have an extra crew in Chengdu. I guess they could stagger the crew, but with only 3 flights a week that would not be very efficient either. As it is now, the crew will have to fly 14 hours to Chengdu, have 15 hours off and then fly 14 hours back. Hope they get a good night’s sleep!

  • Roan

    They do this all the time on their Asia flights. The SFO-HKG flight gets into HKG around 6:45pm and heads back to SFO at 11:30am the next day, which means they have a 747 just sitting there for almost 17 hours. It’s probably timed the way it is for connecting flights to/from other West Coast cities, but you’d think they’d at least try to use the plane for an intra -Asia run. I can see how this is harder with a 747, but it sounds like a Narita run should be doable for that 787 at Chengdu. If they have the rights for that route that is.

  • Matt

    How is it economical for United to have a 787 sit in Chengdu from 6:50pm until 10am the following day?

  • Chris McGinnis

    Very clever!

  • Tim_Dick

    How quickly will this flight become known as the Panda Express? You heard it first here…