United Airlines Adds Chicago To Tel Aviv Flight

Filed Under: United

United Airlines has just announced two long haul routes out of Chicago — there’s a new route that makes sense, while there’s a route reinstatement that does surprise me.

United Airlines launching Chicago to Tel Aviv route

United Airlines has historically been by far the largest US airline in Israel, and the carrier is now expanding even further. In September 2020, United Airlines is adding a new 3x weekly flight between Chicago and Tel Aviv.

This route will be operated by a Boeing 787-9 with the following schedule:

Chicago to Tel Aviv departing 6:30PM arriving 1:45PM (+1 day) [Mon, Thu, Sat]
Tel Aviv to Chicago departing 12:50AM arriving 5:30AM [Mon, Wed, Sat]

United Airlines 787 business class

This will be the fourth hub out of which United Airlines flies to Tel Aviv, as the airline also flies to Israel out of Newark, San Francisco, and Washington. As far as those routes resuming goes (most flights had been suspended due to the pandemic):

  • United will resume 3x weekly flights between San Francisco and Tel Aviv as of July
  • United will increase to 10x weekly flights between Newark and Tel Aviv as of August (the airline has flown this route throughout the pandemic)
  • United will resume 3x weekly flights between Washington and Tel Aviv as of October

United Airlines’ routes to Israel

It’s cool to see just how well United has done in the Tel Aviv market. EL AL was supposed to launch Chicago to Tel Aviv flights as of March 2020, though the pandemic got in the way of that happening.

United resuming Chicago to Hong Kong route

Here’s a route resumption that caught me off guard — I’m surprised it’s happening at all, and am even more confused by the way it’s happening.

In September 2019, United Airlines cut its Chicago to Hong Kong route, which had been operated for many years. This came amid the protests that were happening in Hong Kong, but more importantly this was a route that apparently hadn’t been performing well for quite a while, particularly compared to the Newark and San Francisco flights.

Well, in September 2020, United Airlines is resuming the Chicago to Hong Kong route, but only once weekly.

This route will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER with the following schedule:

Chicago to Hong Kong departing 2:00PM arriving 6:40PM (+1 day) [Sun]
Hong Kong to Chicago departing 10:30AM arriving 12:30PM [Tue]

United Airlines 777-300ER business class

I must be missing something here:

  • A once weekly flight isn’t exactly going to get business travelers to choose United over another airline, especially since the timing of the flights isn’t great (arriving Monday evening, returning Tuesday)
  • You would think United would instead focus on rebuilding Hong Kong out of Newark and San Francisco

That makes me wonder if there’s maybe another motive here? Is there somehow enough cargo to make Chicago to Hong Kong lucrative just once per week? That seems especially likely when you consider that they’re using a 777-300ER, which has a lot of cargo capacity.

United Airlines 777-300ER

Bottom line

United Airlines will be adding a new Chicago to Tel Aviv route, which will be the fourth US gateway out of which United flies to Israel.

While it’s odd on the surface to see an airline add a new route during a pandemic, this kind of makes sense — EL AL was going to launch this route, and this is an opportunity for United to grow its presence even more in Israel.

To me it’s the once weekly Chicago to Hong Kong route that’s more surprising. There must be a cargo justification for it, or something, because I can’t think of any other US airline operating once weekly service in a long haul business market.

United Airlines has historically had the most global international route network among US airlines, so I’ll be curious to see how United adds back long haul flights to the schedule.

What do you make of these route adds by United?

  1. Ben, EWR-TLV has been flown daily throughout the pandemic. This is an increase to 10x/week.

  2. EWR to TLV has been one of 4 TATL routes UA has flown pretty much regularly since the pandemic out of EWR (LHR, FRA, and AMS being the other 3). The ORD-TLV add is not really surprising, as UA can make it work and is the #1 US airline to Israel anyway. With EL AL temporarily shut down, this actually makes some sense. As for ORD-HKG resuming, on a 777-300ER, once a week, this is all about cargo, not pax.

  3. United has been running lots of cargo-only HKG-ORD flights the last few months (as well as HKG-SFO)

  4. UA is already running the ORD-HKG flights UA2865/2866 daily with a 77W and no pax, so they’re just adding cabin crew and catering to accept pax once a week in September.

    As far as SFO, they are already running SFO-HKG-SIN flights UA2871/2862 4 times per week with a 789 and no pax. With CX already offering HKG-SFO there’s no market there for UA (nobody who is sane would fly UA over CX). EWR is too long and thin of a route to make any sense given the lack of demand.

  5. Terrific news, but the TLV route is most likely opening due to the incentive from the Israeli government to open new routes that other airlines don’t fly and the fact that LY wasn’t able to launch it.

  6. I’m surprised to see ORD-TLV coming on line before IAD-TLV is resumed. I think the United hub that has suffered the most during this pandemic and slow recovery has been IAD. Seems like United is back to thinking of EWR as its European gateway.

  7. Great news about the Tel Aviv service!

    Tel Aviv is a fabulous destination and tech hub.

    seems like American continues to ceed Chicago to United.

    Delta is also adding a extra service to Tel Aviv.

  8. American hates to compete. Not only are they continuing to cede Chicago to United, but they’re ceding New York and Los Angeles to Delta. About the only city where they’re aggressively competing is Seattle, but that’s only because they have Alaska teaming with them. I can’t understand the thought process behind giving up on the three largest cities in the US.

  9. I am confused – since most US citizens are not currently allowed to enter Israel why are they adding flights unless it is really for freight.

  10. Freight definitely was the first thing that came to mind for HKG.

    United must do well in the freight market out of Chicago as well to be able to invest in this hub and their network out of Chicago as my impression was always that it was a bit of a mediocre market for some of their major international destinations particularly in Asia. But it does seem they are investing more here than AA.

  11. TLV, with there CORONA counts rising to the sky at the moment again and having all those US planes arriving with possible infected people, i think the country will soon stop all traffic again to TLV.
    New Infections in the last days around 800 every day, compared to only 76 in mid June. That was when limited flights were only allowed to land in TLV.
    High risk area and with all those people from high risk countries arriving (USA), don’t think it’s too wise to fly there now.

  12. There is nothing wrong with the timing for ORD-HKG, since UA had similar timing for 25 years before they suspend this route , and even when CX start their own ORD-HKG, CX had similar timing as well

  13. @Francis — There are a number of people who are dual US-Israeli citizens, so there is some demand from travelers allowed to enter Israel

  14. Maybe the new Hong Kong route is to do with a more broader contract with a company? For example, the contract might say that that United has to operate a minimum of one weekly flight between Chicago and Hong Kong; so while that particularly route might not be profitable to the Airline, the overall contract will be profitable.

  15. For UA resuming flight between SFO/ORD and Hong Kong, it retreats for resident in US and Canada.

  16. Exactly what is a “long haul business market” ? When only 20% of the seats are business class, the 80% of passengers in back are far from worthless. Even with daily service, business travel to the formerly great city of Hong Kong would drop off sharply.

  17. you guys, UA is starting the ORD service since there is an incentive from the Israeli government to do so. I guess they decided there’s no difference between the IAD and the ORD service, and the ORD service awards them with €250k, so they said why not do that. I guess they wanted to start the ORD service for a long time, but LY was about to too, and before UA, and due to the state LY is in now, it’s obviously not happening. I believe there should be a cooling period from when one airline announcing it opens a new route before that announcement is “expired” for the incentive side of things. So if LY were to operate it first, and within a certain time frame, UA wouldn’t get the incentive.

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