Following American Airlines announcing some significant international expansion a couple of weeks ago, United Airlines has now announced some international expansion as well, including some pretty cool and creative routes.
United Airlines’ New Route Announcement
Today they’re announcing their latest international growth, which includes new year-round flights, new seasonal flights, and some seasonal flights becoming year-round. While the primary focus here is on transatlantic flights, there are some other additions as well.
Impressively this complements all of the 2019 summer seasonal flying that United already offered — they’re not cutting any routes (unrelated to this, United is suspending Chicago to Hong Kong and Newark to Buenos Aires), so these are all additions that will be made possible by the new wide body planes they’re taking delivery of. United’s route planning people are clearly pretty sharp.
So let’s take a look at the details.
Chicago To Zurich Year-Round Flight
As of March 28, 2020, United will offer year-round daily service between Chicago and Zurich. This will be operated by one of their premium configured 767-300s, featuring 46 Polaris seats.
United says they offer the most flights of any US airline to Switzerland, and that from Chicago United operates to more year-round international destinations in Europe, Asia, and South America, than any airline.
This will complement United’s existing flights from Newark, San Francisco, and Washington. Furthermore, Swiss also flies from Chicago to Zurich, and they’re part of the same joint venture as United.
Seasonal Newark To Nice Flight
As of May 2, 2020, United will be launching daily seasonal flights between Newark and Nice. This flight will be operated using a premium configured Boeing 767-300, featuring 46 Polaris seats. This makes sense, given that this is a premium leisure market.
United will be going head-to-head with both Delta and La Compagnie here. Delta operates this flight seasonally with a Boeing 767-400, while La Compagnie operated the route seasonally this year for the first time with a 757-200 in an all business class configuration.
Seasonal Newark To Palermo Flight
As of May 20, 2020, United will offer seasonal flights between Newark and Palermo. They’ll be the only US airline flying to Sicily, so that’s a pretty cool addition. Meridiana used to fly between Palermo and New York before they rebranded as Air Italy.
Seasonal Newark To Curacao Flight
As of December 7, 2019, United will offer winter seasonal Saturday-only flights between Newark and Curacao. The route will be operated by a Boeing 737-700 aircraft, and will be United’s 21st island destination in the Caribbean.
Denver To London Flight Becomes Year-Round
United launched seasonal flights between Denver and London as of 2018. However, as of November 1, 2019, United will offer year-round flights between Denver and London using a Boeing 787-8.
This will complement United’s existing year-round service from Denver to both Frankfurt and Tokyo.
San Francisco To New Delhi Flight Becomes Year-Round
United already announced that they’d offer seasonal flights between San Francisco and New Delhi as of December 5, 2019. Well, United’s new San Francisco to New Delhi route will operate year-round with a Boeing 787-9.
Increased Frequencies To Amsterdam & Frankfurt
As of March 28, 2020, United will be offering a second daily flight from Newark to both Amsterdam and Frankfurt:
- The second daily Newark to Amsterdam flight will be operated by a 767-300 with 30 Polaris seats
- The second daily Newark to Frankfurt flight will be operated by a 767-300 with 46 Polaris seats
Status Of United’s New Polaris Business Class Seats
Speaking of international routes, I figured it made sense to check in on the progress of new Polaris seats. United first announced their new Polaris business class concept in December 2016, so what’s the status of United planes featuring these new seats?
- As it stands, about a third of United’s wide body aircraft have been reconfigured with the new seats
- By the end of the year, roughly 50% of all United wide bodies will have new Polaris business class seats, though that number includes newly delivered planes (which United received with these new seats)
- The first 787-8s and 787-9s should be reconfigured with the new Polaris cabins as of later this year
Polaris business class seats on new 787-10
Reconfiguring a third of planes in nearly three years isn’t exactly impressive, if you ask me.
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United New Route Summary
United’s route planning people really impress me. Not only have they tried some really creative new routes (including ultra long haul flights, which are notoriously difficult to turn profits on), but they are succeeding by all accounts.
They’re not cutting a single one of the routes they’ve already added and they just keep expanding their international network. Ultimately there’s nothing too shocking here, in my opinion, though there are still some really creative routes.
It’s also cool to see United’s super-premium 767s operate premium summer seasonal flights, rather than just business markets like Newark to London.
What do you make of United’s latest expansion?