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]
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]
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
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?