Can You Guess United Airlines’ Mysterious New International Routes?

Filed Under: United

Update: Here are the full details of United’s new routes to Africa, India, and Hawaii.

As an aviation geek, I sure love that some airlines have made a game of new route announcements, giving us a chance to guess before the announcement is formalized. Well, here’s a fun one…

United announcing new routes

United Airlines dropped a hint on social media today about new routes that are going to be announced tomorrow (Wednesday, September 9, 2020) at 10AM CT.

The airline has uploaded a 52-second video that it claims has over 30 clues that point to where the airline will be announcing service to. We don’t know how many new routes will be announced, though the airline has clarified that these are new routes altogether, and not resumptions of old routes.

We’ve seen airlines announce dozens of new routes lately, but they’ve almost entirely been for service to Florida and Mexico, so we haven’t really seen much long haul expansion. It looks like that’s about to change.

What clues are in United’s video?

I think the clues in the video raise more questions than anything else. A few observations:

Suffice to say that I’m stumped, and there are a lot of potential options here. I should mention that:

  • I have the utmost respect for Patrick Quayle, United’s VP of International Network (he’s pictured in the video), and he has been the guy behind some incredibly creative routes
  • United is by far the most adventurous of the “big three” US carriers when it comes to launching ultra long haul flights, like Houston to Sydney, San Francisco to Singapore, and Newark to Cape Town
  • That being said, with current travel restrictions I can’t fully wrap my head around an airline using this time to launch some really “out there” routes

I have a few general thoughts, though let me start with the letter “B” being typed into an iPhone that displays a list of destinations, because I think this is the one where we can have the most educated guess:

  • Bangalore seems like the obvious destination to me,Ā since American plans on launching Seattle to Bangalore flights, and United has already historically flown to both Delhi and Mumbai
  • Some might guess a San Francisco to Bangkok route, since that has been requested for a long time, but I just don’t see how the economics of that could work
  • The one other thought is that maybe a Brisbane route could be in the cards, given that Virgin Australia was based in Brisbane, and is discontinuing long haul flights
  • Or who knows, maybe United will start flying to Baghdad šŸ˜‰

As far as the other clues go:

  • Since Africa is pictured, could we see a route to Accra or Johannesburg, or a return to Lagos? With South African Airways’ struggles, maybe this is United’s opportunity to expand in South Africa?
  • For South America, I’m guessing we’d likely see new routes to existing destinations, rather than new destinations altogether, so maybe something like Newark to Santiago or San Francisco to Sao Paulo?
  • Since ultra long haul is a theme that’s really pushed here, is that maybe in reference to South Africa, or could we see new routes to Asia as well?

Bottom line

It sure sounds like United Airlines has a big announcement tomorrow for new international routes. I’m really excited to see what the airline comes up with, though can’t help but feel like it’s a bizarre time to announce “creative” routes, especially with the number of travel restrictions that exist.

My guess is that at least some of these announcements will be for routes launching way in the future, so I wouldn’t expect much new service in the coming months.

If you want to play along in the comments section, I’d love to hear what you guys observe, and what routes you think United will launch!

Thanks for entertaining us, United, because I sure do get amusement out of this!

  1. Bissau?





    Lots of choices. My money would be on Banjul out of these (although my heart is with Blantyre and my head says none of the above!).

  2. Def a route from Chicago as well, as there’s a map for there, as well as DC and Newark. Africa looks a very likely outcome as it’s shown 2 or 3 times. Interesting if they do take up South Africa, given it’s very underserved from the US (and just based on the amount of traffic from South Africa to Europe, there’s definitely demand). Another B would be Bangkok.

  3. I think Sfo- Bangaloreā€™s most realistic, but Iā€™m secretly hoping itā€™s Bangkok. Another thought is maybe SFO-GRU? The closest SFO gets to South America is with Copa to pty

  4. Just feel that an ORD-BOM has been debated for a while. Lot of EWR-BOM traffic was from non-hub locations per a study earlier and UA has been quick to resume that route even in this current environment (with their largest and most premium airplane in the stable i.e. 77W), suggesting that demand is still strong. But again….just speculation.

  5. Looks like either flag of Zimbabwe or Mozambique on the wing of the paper airplane in the video.

    So I will guess Bulawayo and Beira respectively.

  6. A bit tangental, but not completely. Last time UAL announced new routes, I was amazed at the routes to AMS. Looks like AA is also prioritizing routes to AMS. I guess it must be because of cargo?

  7. There’s a picture of Van Ness and International Court street signs, which is in DC. There are a lot of embassies near that intersection, though I would figure that one of the new routes is to one of those countries which have an embassy near that intersection.

    I know it doesn’t help much, but those countries which have embassies right there are Israel, Ghana, Bangladesh, Jordan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Egypt, UAE, Austria, Slovakia, Singapore, and China.

    Honestly, the most likely option would be Israel (which actually has its embassy right on that street corner, not just near it); a Chicago to Tel Aviv route would make a lot of sense, and I think is the most likely option. I think that the second most likely option is IAD/EWR to Accra, given that SAA is in a tricky situation; maybe UA will even fully take on the IAD-ACC-JNB route. Both of these options would likely use the 789, which is mentioned many times in the promo.

    I honestly don’t see them expanding into any of the other options (maaaaybe an EWR-LOS/CMN/CAI route, but very unlikely), especially not to China with the current atmosphere. Also, given the heavy references to the 763, I would presume that they’ll introduce another route to either Europe, S. America, or Hawaii. Also seems like they’ll introduce a new flight to a destination that starts with B; my guesses would be Bangkok (probably not), Bermuda, Barbados, Belize, or the Bahamas, though I am really hoping for IAD-Berlin.

  8. Lot’s of gapping holes in their South America network! EWR-UIO, EWR-GYE, EWR-EZE, EWR-GIG, EWR-SCL, EWR-CTG, EWR/IAH-CLO, EWR/IAH-MDE, EWR/IAH-GEO, etc.

  9. Someone on Twitter also pointed out that 4903 is the number of miles between EWR and OGG, and the numbers 4903 are on the billboard in the final shot of the promo, right next to a Hawaiian Lei. Most likely option and would use a 763.

  10. JNB wouldn’t surprise me at all. South African is hurting big time and Delta now is a one-stop triangle ATL-JNB-CPT-ATL service which isn’t nearly as appealing as when it was nonstop both ways.

  11. Guesses from the collage in the frame at :39 seconds:

    Middle lower portion of the frame shows the lotus temple in Delhi from above. Guess would be from ORD (not sure that’s “new”) or IAH (maybe out of range for that). Definitely somewhere to india.

    The Lei in the upper portion. Doesn’t UA fly from all hubs to HNL? Perhaps a different route to OGG/LIH/KOA (that would be boring). If they mean international from HNL, guess would be LHR or PPT.

    Map of Africa. New to Africa would be wide open, hoping CAI. CMN more likely I think.

    What is pictured slightly slanted on top of boarding pass in the left upper corner?
    What is pictured hanging off of the bottom left corner of the board?
    Ideas on the bridge photo near eyeshade in left lower corner?
    What is pictured immediately to the left of the wing photo – can’t make it out?

  12. Is that a stuffed llama at 0:11?

    And, at 00:32 there’s a pineapple (by the Polaris eye mask) … and at 00:34 the maps are of the Hawaiian Islands. At 00:38 is the Lei. At 00:41 are the Hawaii maps again. What would they be doing that would be groundbreaking in Hawaii?

  13. It’s not that strange if these routes don’t actually start until well into next year and they are trying to generate buzz. It would be more unusual if it was for launching in the next few months or so, sure.

  14. Flying go sweet soo?

    My guess guys, guess guess guess.
    All I can see are three options on the cards…
    1- Chicago to Bamenda non-stop daily on B787-9 Dreamliner.
    2- Newark to Buea nonstop daily on the B787-9 Dreamliner.
    3- San Francisco to Bandjoun nonstop daily on the B767-300ER.

    Yeahhh. Central Africa is now on the United map

  15. I can also see them using their B767s for South American routes like Bogota Cali Medellin and maybe some northern Brazilian cities like Recife or Belo Horizonte

  16. Watched it again, noticed at 00:15 one postcard has “787-8” and at 00:23 is “767-300” text. Is there some significance to seven paper airplanes? (Seven new routes?)

  17. 95% chance it will be a country that does not accept US citizens oor has a 10-14 day mandatory quarantine.

    Stupid rona. Stupid US.

  18. I am guessing a new route to Berlin (BER is the new airport code). Delta has not announced resumption of Berlin for next summer. I also predict an expansion to South Africa, since South African Airways has collapsed.

  19. I hope for an SFO -> South America route.

    I often travel to Lima on business, and end up needing to lay over in either LAX or MIA (if I book last min).

  20. Honestly, I really don’t care where in the world they go as long as they start back up their routes to Ireland!! The direct route from IAD to Dublin and the route from EWR to Shannon! LOL Selfishly those are the only routes I miss the most!

  21. *Cough United Employee Cough* Good money on Brisbane… Though I would love to be wrong and have it be Bangkok.

  22. I wonder if they might do SFO-BER. In some ways a long-shot, but the leisure market is there and BER also has a very strong tech scene. IAD-BER also possible and in-line with using Dulles as a connecting east coast hub.

    Perhaps HND-HNL/OGG? Doable on a 763 and something truly new on Hawaii.

    What about EWR-JNB nonstop and/or taking over IAD-ACC-JNB? The latter could also be done on the 763.

  23. Bali and Bangkok are unlikely, too heavily low fare/tourist (low yield) orientated and not enough business demand to subsidise the ‘cheap (low yield)’ tickets

    The B, either SFO-BOG (or less likely) SFO-BNE (at less than daily initially) to take advantage of VA’s exit from the TransPac market, despite the lack of feed to/from UA at the BNE end.

  24. I used to fly IAD to FRA regularly and I seem to remember them doing IAD to Berlin seasonally if I am not mistaken at least seasonally so that would be my guess out of IAD.

  25. There will be something from Berlin. Let’s not forget that Air Berlin used to operate five or so routes to the United States. I know it’s not the strongest business market, but it is a really large city, has a strong and growing tech scene and healthy leisure market. If UA can service Lisbon or Edinburgh, Berlin should be easily doable.

  26. One would think an airline claiming it needs to furlough tens of thousands of employees to remain viable might think twice about spending money on a stupid teaser video that does nothing except stroke Patrick Quayle’s exceptionally needy ego.

  27. They just laid off approximately 1/3 of their network planning staff And general management staff, including many people I know and worked with, and theyā€™re spending money on
    This vanity piece video? Disgusting.

  28. I spotted tulip logo on this video – it makes my day! Actually I suspect 7 new destinations since paper airplanes and out from 5 US airports (LAX / SFO / EWR / IAD / ORD) since they show their airport runway diagrams. We will find out in under 24 hours!

  29. hoping for a second time lucky with SFO-BLR after the SFO-DEL bummer.

    wish UA technically makes up SFO-BLR as the economics are evident & the AA SEA-BLR is bound to draw UA’s elite from the bay area.

    way to go UA?

  30. Isn’t United hiring network planning analysts in India right now? My guess is one of the destinations is in India.

  31. Who needs new routes? I wish United would restore some of the IAD-Europe routes that have been on hiatus, some since the start of the COVID crisis, and some since the end of the 2019 summer season. Having to travel via EWR or FRA to get from IAD to most European cities on United is just plain ugly!

  32. First off, Vienna was highlighted on the Washington DC map so maybe a route from Dulles to Vienna?

    As for B I do not know for sure except possibly Buenos Aires to Los Angeles or Barcelona to Chicago?

    And finally, I saw the folded boarding pass and the airport code looked like UVF which would be St. Lucia so maybe St. Lucia to Dulles?

  33. IAH is in there too, not in the video but in the collage board they posted after, on the right hand side, towards the middle!

  34. My guesses:

    Seven paper airplanes means seven new routes.

    Newark to Maui: the 4903 along with a pineapple and a lei is a giveaway.

    Dulles to Vienna: the map circles Dulles Airport, but Vienna (VA) is in focus; an early aerial shot in the video also appears to be of Vienna, Austria. OS currently operates IAD-VIE, but is retiring half of its 767 fleet. UA picks up this route.

    Dulles or Newark to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire: Patrick Quayle is wearing two bracelets. One has green white and orange beads. Not too many countries featuring those flags. Ireland is one, but I don’t see any other clues that point to Ireland. Abidjan currently has no service from US carriers, but is the sixth largest city on the continent with growing economy. ET operates ADD-ABJ-EWR (in normal times). This is three times a week. If United is going to make a play for Africa, they’ll need to take on ET. Delta doesn’t operate (yet), so they may want to make a move. Likely doable on a 763.

    Dulles or Newark to Accra, Ghana. Patrick Quayle’s second bracelet features the colors of the Ghanian flag, as well as a star… to me, its a good indication ACC will be back in the network.

    New service to Delhi, likely from Chicago. An aerial shot of Delhi’s Baha’i Lotus Temple is in the video. Delhi is already served from SFO and EWR. Given the EWR flight, I’m not sure they’d launch from Dulles, but its possible. Somewhere to Delhi, however.

    SFO-Lima. I noticed the Polaris-themed llama. Post-COVID, Peru is a pretty popular destination and is not currently served from SFO. Lots of money in Northern California, and obviously a strong UA hub for the entire western part of the country.

    One of the passport stamps shows ‘South Africa’, so I’m thinking (hoping!) there will be a Newark (or Dulles) to Johannesburg service. SAA is in trouble and is subleasing an A350 for their New York flight: I could see them dropping this and UA taking the route.

  35. As people have mentioned there is an aerial view of the Bahaā€™i Lotus Temple in Delhi. If you look at the line connecting it to the top left there is another aerial view of what appears to be the Bahaā€™i Temple in the suburbs of Chicago so ORD-DEL would be my guess.

    The weather pattern on the plane wing looks a bit like the flag of Guyana?

  36. The two bracelets shown include the colors of the following country flags: 1. green/white/orange (Ireland, India, Ivory Coast, Niger) and 2. red/yellow/green (Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Republic of Benin, Togo, Guinea, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Congo, Sao Tome and PrĆ­ncipe, Bolivia, Lithuania). The yellow flower appears to be the Costus Spectabili (Yellow Trumpet) – nation flower of Nigeria. And there is a GMT notation on the map – likely means one of the destinations is in Zulu time zone.

  37. Also Scott Kirby on Instagram chimes in with this clue: ā€œIā€™ve hiked a lot of mountains but the tallest peak on only one continentā€

  38. I am going to have to say Los Angeles to Bangalore but that is probably just my wishful thinking as I really want to go back to India. Hopefully, when India opens back up.

  39. Shouldnā€™t Bangkok be ruled out because Thailand is FAA Category II? Sure, TG as a Star Alliance partner could really help in the way of connectivity, more than SQ would be willing to give in the region, but thereā€™s just no flouting the FAA. Brisbane makes more sense

    Any news on the missing UA exec?

  40. Before its collapse, Air Berlin flew ORD to TXL with decent turnout. I would love to see expansion into BER since their Star Alliance partner Lufthansa isn’t really planning to do many (if any at all) international routes out of there.

  41. We need a US carrier here in Nairobi. Kq is expensive and the service sucks. Delta at one point wanted to fly to Nairobi but it didnt happen.

  42. Bangalore is doubtful at this point. My guess is maybe another East Coast (Washington DC) or a connection from Chicago to Delhi.
    But, would love to see a flight from SFO/Chicago/East Coast to BLR.

  43. @Ben (not OMAT Ben but the other one that commented above)…..why in the world would they do IAD-VIE when Austrian does it?

  44. The major thing I’ve picked from the comments is that way toooooo many people have way toooooo much time on their hands

  45. Looks like UA just announced it! SFO to Bangalore, IAD to Accra and Lagos, EWR-JNB
    I thought I saw a llama in the video so I was guessing a South American route would be one of them.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.