Air New Zealand is about to announce a new route, likely the long-flagged direct service to Chicago.

The travel industry has been invited to a ''where to next'' event at it the airline's Auckland headquarters on Wednesday evening.

It is understood a new non-stop service will start in November this year and be between three and five times a week.

The Business Herald has previously reported Air New Zealand's chief executive Christopher Luxon as saying Chicago was firmly on the radar as a fourth United States mainland destination.


The airline flies to Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently Houston, a service which has been popular and is flown to daily during the high season.

Brent Thomas, commercial director of House of Travel, said he had not been told what the announcement would be, but Chicago would be popular with both leisure and business customers.

Flying directly to Chicago is nearly 13,200km but within capability of the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 777-200s without ''payload penalties.'' The flight will be the airline's longest and could take around 17 hours.

''From a customer point of view it would be one step on to European destinations.''

Chicago was also a big hub for one of Air New Zealand's revenue-sharing partners, United Airlines.

More than 200,000 Kiwis travel to the US a year and Flight Centre general manager product, Sean Berenson, said if it was Chicago it would be popular.

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo / Alan Gibson
An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo / Alan Gibson

''North America is a real growth area for New Zealand travel at the moment and there would certainly be the demand to expand on the offering in this space.

"Already this year Flight Centre NZ had seen an almost 10 per cent increase in our number of customers travelling to North America.


''A destination such as Chicago would be an exciting and unique offering, we know our customers would respond well too.''

Read more: The rise of ultra-long haul flights

Direct flights to Chicago — whose metropolitan area has a population of around 10 million — would boost New Zealand tourism.

For the first time in history Australia and the United Kingdom will be linked by a regular, non-stop commercial passenger service when Qantas flight QF9 takes off from Perth this Sunday.

In the year ended February the total number of international arrivals from the US was 337,664, up 9.9 per cent on the previous 12 months. Tourism New Zealand research shows there are 27.9 million US ''active considerers'' who have this country as one on their top five destinations they would like to visit.

While most visitors come from California now, routes deeper into the US will allow those from the Midwest and eastern cities easier access to this country.

US visitors stay around seven days on average but a high number of them are free and independent travellers who are high spenders.

In 2016 visitors spent $1.1 billion, and this is forecast to grow to $1.7b by 2023.

Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States. Photo / Supplied
Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States. Photo / Supplied

The Koru has been seen in Chicago before with a charter flight to the city carrying the All Blacks and fans in 2014 for the test against the US Eagles. That flight, using a Boeing 777-300, flew via Los Angeles.

Flights to Chicago would be a forerunner of more services to other parts of the United States.

The airline would like to open up the eastern seaboard of the US with flights to New York but this may have to wait for the next generation of ultra-long-haul aircraft, possibly the Boeing 777-8 which is still being developed for entry into service early next decade.