United Airlines Cancels All Long Haul International Flights

Filed Under: United

Update: Just 24 hours later, United Airlines has reinstated six daily long haul international flights.

United Airlines has become the first global US airline to announce plans to cancel all international long haul flights.

United cancels 95% of international flights

As United describes it, the international schedule is being reduced by 95% by April 2020. However, the 5% of international flying remaining is all short haul flying. United explains that these cuts are due to government mandates and restrictions in place that prohibit travel.

The full updated international schedule will be published on Sunday, March 22, 2020. So, what all is changing?

United’s Atlantic service cuts

United is currently drawing down all remaining transatlantic flights, with the final westbound departures to take place on March 25. The exception is the Cape Town to Newark flight, which will operate through March 28, as previously scheduled.

United’s Pacific service cuts

United is reducing remaining transpacific flights starting March 22, with final eastbound departures on March 25. The exception is flights between San Francisco and both Tahiti and Sydney, as those flights will have final returns on March 28.

United will maintain some Guam flights, as well as some Island Hopper service.

United’s Latin America service cuts

United will reduce Mexico operations over the next few days. After March 24, United will only maintain a small number of daytime flights to certain destinations in Mexico. The airline will also be canceling all Central and South America operations, with the last southbound departures taking place on March 24, 2020.

United’s Canada service cuts

United is temporarily suspending all Canada flights as of April 1, 2020.

Bottom line

Of the “big three” US carriers, United Airlines has now become the first to cut all long haul international flying. The airline is maintaining some international flights to Mexico, as well as some short haul flights from Guam and Island Hopper service, but that’s about it.

Technically there are still some places where there aren’t government restrictions in place, though with the pace at which regulations change, at some point it no longer makes sense to chase a moving target. Furthermore, the US has issued a “Level 4” advisory for international travel, advising all Americans to return home ASAP.

As a point of comparison, as of this point Delta has announced an 80% cut in international capacity, while American has announced a 75% cut in international capacity. I would guess we’ll see more cuts soon.

Are you surprised to see United Airlines cut all international long haul flights?

  1. what happens to my paid ticket for LAX to Vancouver, Canada for my August departure if flight is suspended? Can I get a refund now?

  2. @shoeguy Whoops sorry for the mistype.

    Flightradar24 is currently showing that as E175. Not sure if it’s a bug or something.

  3. @CDKing

    Did you receive a ‘sensationalized’ text message or email indicating this? Please stop spreading misinformation that you very, very likely have no idea about. The world is full of enough misinformation and ignorant people, both in their thoughts and behaviors, right now.

  4. Friends are flying CPT to JNB right now. They fly JNB-FRA on LH tomorrow and connect to FRA-LAX on Monday on UA. Is the FRA-LAX flight still scheduled to operate?

  5. My flight from IAD to ZRH on Apr 3 has been cancelled. Is it correct that instead of a refund, per Dept of Transportation rules, United is offering credit which converts to refund after 1 year? Is there any way to get a refund now, instead of giving United a 1 year interest free loan? Does EC261 give me any leverage to get a refund now?

  6. Not surprised. If CX cuts everything except for a handful of destinations (thrice weekly), US airlines cannot stay in the current form for the next few weeks.

  7. My folks are scheduled to fly to Milan in early May. They’re freaking out about the ticket but don’t a $3300 credit they want their $ back which is totally understandable. I’ve advised them to not touch the ticket but wait until United has to cancel & then we’ll try to get them refunded instead of credit. Anyone else having luck with this strategy. Anything different I should be doing? I’m sympathetic to the airlines’ plight but I swear I may never touch a United plane again if they fight me on this.

  8. We have also been denied refund and only been offered flight credit.
    At the moment, if anyone can reach out to their Senators or Congressmen to help , it would be a great thing.

  9. The idea of a total travel shutdown or martial law isn’t based on wild disinformational rumors. It’s a pretty logical prediction: a near-total shutdown of the economy, while it seems moderately-bearable right now by those of us luck enough to have a work-from-home capable job, will be socially and economic catastrophic. At the level of a total war. Keeping people inside for a week might be easy. Longer than that, and the pressure will build and build. People can’t naturally tolerate social isolation and lack of productivity for months on end. Martial law is simply one tool that governments will be able to wield that can enforce that. China (which is always basically in a state of martial law) had to use pretty extreme measures to keep people in Wuhan and Hubei in their homes – and also took and locked up thousands of them in containment centers. And they only were able to do so for about a month, max (luckily that’s how long it took for the most serious phase of the pandemic there to flatten out and subside).

  10. Surprised that some routes aren’t staying. United’s India routes, namely EWR-BOM are still running mostly full to completely full every night. And the return BOM-EWR is always full. That route is One of their most profitable.

  11. Please stop bringing tourists to HAWAII immediately

  12. @Rebecca Stone we cancelled our Hawaii trip for this reason alone. We are healthy but we don’t want to contribute to any spread of the virus beyond what it has already done.

  13. Saw this this morning, and somewhat shocked. I’m surprised none of the airlines have just said we’re suspending all flights for X weeks, of their own volition. I mean, at this point, and with ~20% LF, I’m not even sure it makes sense to be flying. Maybe no one wants be first, or three are waiting for FAA to shut down airspace, so they can say it wasn’t their choice?

    Also a bit confused about why they are suspending all flights to Canada, but are still flying some Mexico flights (though I guess it remains to be seen how many).

    @flyingrohit – India banned international flights inbound to India, so Ua couldn’t continue their service anyway. I’m not sure how long that lasts, but given no tourists can enter India anyway, there probably isn’t even demand for a few times a week service anyway. I’d guess those routes will return at some point, when this crisis has died down somewhat, but whether that’s a month from now, a few months or a year (or longer), who knows? Probably closer to the latter than the former. I’m actually worried about what a post-COVID United (or Delta, American and other airlines) will actually look like.

  14. Well United needs to give me a FULL REFUND OF MY MONEY BACK INSTEAD OF HOLDING ON TO MY MONEY! It’s sad that United is not giving their customer money back because we have to cancel our flights

  15. @Elliot ahh yes forgot about that week long flight ban. Explains why there’s no UA flights going to and from for the next week. I’m slotted to fly out early June to Mumbai on UA (I know not ideal but I need to take care of my grandmother for some time) so hopefully this ban is just temporary.

  16. not quite on topic- but where are all these aircraft being parked? Are they scattered through various hubs and spokes of the network or are they being returned home to base?

  17. I’m booked SYD-SFO on March 28th, supposedly the last UA flight out of Australia. Since they’ve announced it as officially the last flight, can I count on it happening? I need to get back to the USA sometime this month. Just worried they’ll decide to shut down the route even earlier. Pretty crazy that by the end of the month there will be zero flights between USA and Australia.

  18. For cancelled flights check your credit card or travel insurance to see if you are covered for cancellations due to a pandemic. You can contact the insurer or your local cionsumer affairs office

  19. I have 2 non refundable tickets in business class and they bumped my flight to economy. They only offered a voucher. I’m waiting till they cancel it and will use my chase united credit card to try for refund. I hope it works.

  20. Well everyone sucks.

    1) Dealing with an intl booking through a travel agent (Flight Centre in AU) on UA for travel next month for an event. Obviously the event isn’t going ahead and UA has cancelled all flights. Only option is a flight credit even though given the event isn’t going ahead, and can’t travel anyway, surely a refund is due here. On top of that even if UA were to cancel and issue a refund, the TA is insisting on charging their $300 cancellation fee?!?!

    2) Separate US domestic ticket using UA miles. Refused free miles redeposit, and said I can use the miles on another ticket, except I’m in a country where there is no domestic partner, so even if I wanted to use the miles for another ticket, I’d have no choice but to fly overseas to use them… SMH

  21. So I’m reading here that the flights to Sydney are all cancelled. The website (with a relatively current update – yesterday) says the SFO-SYD continues through May. Another website I follow is saying that UA has backtracked and is continuing to fly those routes. I am able to book a flight home to Australia for a relative for next week on that route. Any idea whether they’re really cancelled or not?

  22. Cases like India where all international travelers banned until April 15th should be allowed full refund by all airlines, people need money now as jobs gone.

  23. I have four Business First class tickets to Barcelona on United via Newark and Frankfurt on May 2nd.
    I just checked and the EWR Frankfurt flight is still not canceled and shows Polaris full. The flight from Barcelona to Newark on the return is a Non-Stop and that’s still showing availability.

  24. Anyone whose flight originated in an EU country is covered by Regulation EC 261/2004. This regulation requires an airline that has canceled your flight to offer the customer the choice of

    1. A full refund , or
    2. Credit, or
    3. Rerouting

    The important thing is that it is the customer’s choice NOT the airline. My daughter had her return flight from Dublin to Miami cancelled. We spent less than 30 minutes on call to United. Insisted on speaking to a supervisor and quoted the regulations. After a certain amount of resistance she finally git here refund.

    Lesson is don’t give up and second one is that regulationn trumps “goodwill” everytime.

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