Can You Guess United’s New International Routes?

Can You Guess United’s New International Routes?

56

United Airlines has just announced that it’s going to announce some new international routes tomorrow, and oh my gosh this is just too fun.

United announcing new international routes

New route announcements can be exciting for us avgeeks, and United really embraces it. Not only does United in my opinion have the most exciting route network of any major airline in the United States, but the airline makes a game of announcing new routes.

Yesterday United posted a teaser photo on Instagram, which had an envelope that states “confidential” and “new United international routes” on it.

Sure enough, at 8AM ET this morning, the airline posted a video on social media about an upcoming route announcement. The airline says we have 24 hours to guess the routes, which suggests to me that the announcement will be made tomorrow.

This isn’t the first time that United has done something like this. In September 2020, the airline posted a video on social media containing similar clues, and boy was it fun to guess the routes!

What clues are in United’s video?

As you can see, in the video two people mix up their suitcases, and then try to find one another. For those wondering, the guy featured in the video is Patrick Quayle, United’s brilliant VP of International Network. He seems to have an envelope in the video containing the new routes.

A few observations:

  • The video references LAX, ORD, and IAD, so I’d imagine all three airports are getting new international routes
  • There’s a bag lock that shows the numbers “102” and “324,” and those are the country codes for Ghana and Angola; it seems to me like United is launching a tag flight between Accra and Luanda
  • There’s a backpack with pins — one pin says “Porto,” one pin has the Swedish flag, one pin says “Prague,” and one pin says “NCE,” so I’m guessing there will be new flights to Porto, Portugal, Stockholm, Sweden, Prague, Czech Republic, and Nice, France
  • The Bavarian flag is on the back of the woman’s cell phone, so presumably there’s a new route to Munich
  • There’s a crossword puzzle featured, which contains the words “Arsenal,” “Bread,” “Curacao,” “Fernando,” “Lasagna,” “Lye,” and “Thorn,” and I’m not sure what exactly to make of this; is a new route to Curacao the only clue, or should we also read into Arsenal (new UK routes?), Lasagna (new Italy route?), and the rest of the words?

This is just too fun, and I can’t wait to hear what OMAAT readers notice.

Bottom line

United Airlines seems to be planning an international route announcement for tomorrow (Thursday). United has long been the most creative US airline when it comes to long haul routes, and I can’t wait to see what United launches next. As an avgeek I also love how United makes such a game of guessing new routes.

If you want to play along in the comments section, I’d love to hear OMAAT readers’ route guesses!

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  1. David

    Why doesn’t United maintain their Dublin connections??

  2. Allen S

    I noted this morning that there is now award space showing for nonstop service between IAD and Berlin. I was searching for September 2022. The route was not loaded yesterday. This would be the first nonstop service between IAD and Berlin since Lufthansa, which abandoned the still relatively new route not long after 9/11.

  3. Matt

    They just announced the routes. Some are surprising.

  4. Luke

    I'll guess some new India routes to be added now that it's reopening for foreign tourists shortly. IAD or IAH to DEL perhaps and also SFO or ORD to BOM maybe.

  5. Steven E

    I’m afraid you’ll be probably one of the only people in the country to decipher that - a knowledge of international destinations and basic world geography would be required and…….

  6. AlanB

    Jeez, could they just reopen the Polaris lounges already, go back to using glassware and real plates for business class, and get some decent catering like the European airlines seem to have no trouble doing? United has a great hard product across the oceans (for the most part), but their soft product is simply dismal, and even more so since the pandemic. They should concentrate on getting their existing service up to snuff and stop playing games.

  7. Volleyball

    Republic of the Union of Myanmar!

  8. Daiana Lombardo

    Please, in Canada we need the route YHZ - EWR back.... Atlantic Canada doesn't have flights to US....

  9. Eric

    If you use the decoder wheel, the M.PQ translates to 3.17 so my guess is these routes will start on March 17th, 2022.

  10. Weymar Osborne

    I've never been good at these at all. The only guess I had after the first watch through was Monaco (or in other words, Nice) because of the revving the engine/motor racing part.

  11. Terence

    LAX-MUC, IAD-ACC, ORD-MAN; just guessing

  12. Eddie

    I think I used the cypher incorrectly. I used the numbers to correlate to the actual letter in the alphabet and when I translated MPQ, I ended up with CAG which I assumed was to announce Sardinia. Someone mentioned that the numbers on the lock is the postal code for Moscow Domodedovo Airport.

  13. Ken

    "the numbers “102” and “304,” and those are the country codes for Ghana and Angola"

    Lucky you can do better than this. A simple google check would have told you otherwise

  14. GuiTaR

    Ghana is +233 and Angola is +244...so reference to country codes in your article is totally wrong.

  15. Paul

    there was a set of numbers with the first one being 89841 which is a postal code in Italy, near Filandari. Def expect to see a route there. I'd guess in Calabria.

  16. Kenneth

    I'm going to throw out a guess for Scotland. EDI or GLA. The backpack has a pin with a thistle, the crossword puzzle has thorn and one of damp spots on the newspaper looks very much like the outline of Scotland in reverse. Maybe so or maybe I just want it to be.

    1. AOC

      They already fly to ewr, ord and iad from edi - not too sure about Glasgow but I’d say it’s a decent shout

  17. Parker

    Video mentions gate 84 and implies gate 84 at LAX. UA84 is an EWR-TLV flight, perhaps LAX-TLV?
    The board also says UA15906 to IAD, which if broken into UA15 and UA906, which are LHR-EWR and FRA-ORD. FRA is served everywhere but LAX and LHR has service to all hubs, so I am not sure what to make of that. (Alternatively UA159 was a GUM-HKG in 2019 and UA6 was NRT-IAH, LAX-GUM maybe?).
    Also,...

    Video mentions gate 84 and implies gate 84 at LAX. UA84 is an EWR-TLV flight, perhaps LAX-TLV?
    The board also says UA15906 to IAD, which if broken into UA15 and UA906, which are LHR-EWR and FRA-ORD. FRA is served everywhere but LAX and LHR has service to all hubs, so I am not sure what to make of that. (Alternatively UA159 was a GUM-HKG in 2019 and UA6 was NRT-IAH, LAX-GUM maybe?).
    Also, 8AM at gate 84. UA884 was a one-off SFO-BCN in 2020, could be that Barcelona is getting a new route? SFO would surprise me but ORD would make sense, they would go head to head with AA.
    As for all of the Italian references, IAD-MXP makes the most sense since they currently only serve EWR-MXP.
    Finally, DEN-MUC? With LH cutting wide-bodies perhaps UA will take over that route?

  18. Hugo

    Thorn is a town in central Wales. New service to Cardiff ?

  19. Dn10

    Does United have a plane that could do EWR to MLE?

  20. wpcoe

    One of the pins on the backpack says Prague. Another pin says Porto. Oddly, the Swedish flag is reversed. The pin that Lucky said says NCE, I thought said NICF (or more likely NICE?).

    The monitor behind the podium for the flight to IAD, has a flight number UA15906, which is not a real number, but I have no idea what it could mean.

    Any significance to the "Maximillian Patterson, 2/2026" badge? ("Max Patterson" is...

    One of the pins on the backpack says Prague. Another pin says Porto. Oddly, the Swedish flag is reversed. The pin that Lucky said says NCE, I thought said NICF (or more likely NICE?).

    The monitor behind the podium for the flight to IAD, has a flight number UA15906, which is not a real number, but I have no idea what it could mean.

    Any significance to the "Maximillian Patterson, 2/2026" badge? ("Max Patterson" is a hockey player at Univ. of Calgary, but I can't imagine any new routes to YYC.)

    And what about the "whale tale" charm on her luggage zipper pull?

  21. David

    You have to figure out where the decoder ring should be set for each numeric clue. The numbers stay in the same order but point to different letters.

    For example, the luggage lock 13 02 24 = MBX. Then read the numbers off the decoder ring to get the order. For instance, 24 is at A, and the 24th alphabet letter is X. So the first letter of the cipher alphabet is X. Then you...

    You have to figure out where the decoder ring should be set for each numeric clue. The numbers stay in the same order but point to different letters.

    For example, the luggage lock 13 02 24 = MBX. Then read the numbers off the decoder ring to get the order. For instance, 24 is at A, and the 24th alphabet letter is X. So the first letter of the cipher alphabet is X. Then you can decode MBX to PRG. (I used this tool https://cryptii.com/pipes/alphabetical-substitution) Sorry, Ben, your country codes aren't right :P

    But you have to rotate the cipher alphabet for each clue.

    The badge expiry 2/2026 = could be IKT (Irkutsk??). That would be *crazy*.
    But then the shot of the phone reads 3:00, 01, 25, which I can decode to SVO

    Russian service would fit with the "spy" theme.

    UA 15906 is shown, that would be PDL! Another super surprising route.

    The arrival time shown of 4:10 11 could be TJX (Tijuana) or more likely ITM (Osaka).

    1. Jesper

      Considering that ITM is a domestic only airport, the likelihood of United launching a flight to Osaka Itami is a big round zero. If you can make KIX fit in, then there might be something.

  22. snic

    What about "Lye"? It's a municipality near Birmingham, England.

  23. Nelson

    Fernando could be Fernando de Noronha (FEN), albeit I doubt foreigner Carriers are allowed to operate there. The island is people restricted.

  24. Bobby J

    Thorn is a letter in the Icelandic alphabet (Þ). I'd guess they're adding service to Reykjavik, perhaps from IAD to compete head-on with Icelandair's flight and complement their flights from ORD and EWR.

  25. Bill C.

    IAD-MUN....Dulles sign in airport, Bavarian flag in next scene.

    1. Jason

      United already flies from Washington to Munich and has done so for over 20 years.

  26. Brian G.

    At 0:54 the decoder ring decodes MPQ as 317 which is the area code for Indianapolis. Maybe more flights there?

    1. wpcoe

      At first I was dismissive of IND because these are international routes being announced, but then thought of IND-NAS/Caribbean/Mexico, and it could be?

  27. JB

    One of the clues on the crossword of the newspaper said "ancient Egyptian region", which might just be to keep on theme, but could it mean a new route to Cairo?

  28. Justin

    To be fair, LAX was also clearly referenced in the last video and we did not get a single route. Not holding out any hope for an LAX expansion.

  29. jfhscott

    The Envolope says to "M.PQ" - I say that is Montreal, Province de Quebec.

    On the wheel cypher, numbers 1, 2, and 3 correspond to the letters "PLM". Could this indicate a seasonal route to Palermo?

    Something is on the coffee cup, but I cannot read it, much less decipher its import, as much as I am certain there is a hint.

    1. Jason

      maybe but PQ is the SVP of international network planning at United, and that is him in the video, seated, with the crossword puzzle and later in the last scene. so it's an envelope to Mr. PQ, who is the person seated there.

    2. wpcoe

      Closest I could come with the coffee cup: It definitely looks like 12 as the first "word." After that, the second word is totally a mystery, but the third could be Cup or Cop, and the fourth could be Out? "12 xxxx Cop Out" ?

      At :35, does anybody recognize the coastline in the pic through the airplane window on the signboard?

  30. Aditya

    Wow. Accra Luanda would be interesting. I usually visit Accra and planning to visit Luanda. But the route of Ethiopian have overnight stay at Addis. Not much from other airlines within Africa either with easy access.
    This would be a welcome move.

  31. GW

    I thought it was 324 and not 304 on the baggage lock? Which is either 324 – Ghana or 423 Liechtenstein,. And 102 backwards is 201 which is Newark's area code. I guess Newark Accra.

  32. Jim

    DL proposed an Accra-Luanda tag (or maybe it was Lagos-Luanda?) a few years back, but the FAA never certified Luanda. DL also proposed tags to Malabo and Nairobi, same issue. NBO has since been FAA-cleared, but LAD not so much...

  33. Cajmo

    Accra to Luanda is a helluva route

  34. Robert

    I'd guess that United are morons. Who announces that an announcement is coming? As Bugs Bunny says, What a maroon.

    1. Mark G

      Fernando is probably an Abba reference… ie Stockholm

  35. Kinn

    "102 324" can also be read as "13 02 24", and when you use the cipher shown in the video, you get "JLA" - best guess is Liverpool's John Lennon Airport. So... EWR-LPL?

  36. Lore

    I have seen Lasagna and Arsenal, so i think Bologna and London. For Bread i can guess France, so Nice as you say.
    Curacao of course.
    Fernando si a Portuguese or Brazilian name. Porto, maybe.

    1. JD

      Ehem, Fernando is a Spanish name...

    2. Nelson

      Why you would think Fernando is a Spanish name?? I bet a lot that proportional there are more Fernando's in Portugal than in Spain.

    3. JD

      Because it is a Spanish name. King Fernando of Aragon rings a bell to you? Your bet is wrong. I don't think you realize the population size of Spain versus Portugal....

    4. Nelson

      That's why I mentioned "proportional." Compared to habitants there sure are more in Portugal.

    5. TJ

      Lots of Fernando’s in Brazil

    6. Grzegorz

      Arsenał could mean Venice Arsenal.

  37. MildMidwesterner

    I like to bet really really big, so here's my guess:

    United will fly to Delaware -- the only state without scheduled commercial service. They could own the market!

    1. Izz

      F9 currently flies - and has been flying for some time - from ILG in DE. Every state has commercial service.

  38. Kalen McNabb

    Easy one: Curacao in the crossword!

  39. John s

    On the backpack I also saw what looked like a Swedish flag. In the crossword, I saw the words Curacao, arsenal, lasagna, thorn, and fernando.

  40. Jason

    Do you mean Luanda, not Lagos? You say Angola then say Lagos instead of Luanda. United is already starting a Lagos route

Featured Comments Load all 56 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

David

You have to figure out where the decoder ring should be set for each numeric clue. The numbers stay in the same order but point to different letters. For example, the luggage lock 13 02 24 = MBX. Then read the numbers off the decoder ring to get the order. For instance, 24 is at A, and the 24th alphabet letter is X. So the first letter of the cipher alphabet is X. Then you can decode MBX to PRG. (I used this tool https://cryptii.com/pipes/alphabetical-substitution) Sorry, Ben, your country codes aren't right :P But you have to rotate the cipher alphabet for each clue. The badge expiry 2/2026 = could be IKT (Irkutsk??). That would be *crazy*. But then the shot of the phone reads 3:00, 01, 25, which I can decode to SVO Russian service would fit with the "spy" theme. UA 15906 is shown, that would be PDL! Another super surprising route. The arrival time shown of 4:10 11 could be TJX (Tijuana) or more likely ITM (Osaka).

Nelson

Fernando could be Fernando de Noronha (FEN), albeit I doubt foreigner Carriers are allowed to operate there. The island is people restricted.

Nelson

Why you would think Fernando is a Spanish name?? I bet a lot that proportional there are more Fernando's in Portugal than in Spain.

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