United Downgrades All Flights To Hong Kong

Filed Under: United

It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a big decrease in demand for flights to & from Hong Kong, given the protests that have gone on there for months. Cathay Pacific is already scaling back their schedule, including eliminating frequencies on many popular international routes.

United is the strongest US airline to Hong Kong — they’ve historically offered three daily flights to Hong Kong, while American offers two, and Delta doesn’t offer any.

Well, they’ve now downgraded all of their Hong Kong flights.

United Already Suspended Chicago To Hong Kong Flights

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how United suspended their Chicago to Hong Kong flight as of September 8, 2019. Not surprisingly, this followed weakened demand for travel to Hong Kong, and United found that Chicago had less “local” traffic flying to Hong Kong than San Francisco and New York.

United Downgrading Newark & San Francisco Flights As Well

When United cut their Chicago to Hong Kong route, their plan was to maintain their other flights, including:

  • Their Newark to Hong Kong flight, which is operated daily with a 777-300ER
  • Their San Francisco to Hong Kong flight, which is currently operated daily with a 777-300ER; as of October 2019 United will add a second daily flight, with both flights then being operated by 777-200s

United 777-300

Well, as it turns out that’s not the case anymore, as United has adjusted their schedule:

  • From December 3, 2019, through March 27, 2020, United will downgrade their Newark to Hong Kong flight from a 777-300ER to a 777-200 with their old business class seats
  • From December 4, 2019, through March 27, 2020, United will downgrade their San Francisco to Hong Kong flights from 777-200s with new business class seats to 777-200s with old business class seats

United 777-200

So on all three flights, passengers in business class will go from having these seats…

United’s new Polaris seats

United’s new Polaris seats

To having these seats…

United’s old business class seats

United’s old business class seats

On the plus side, arguably this is good news for those in economy, as they’re going from 10 seats per row in the new configuration to nine seats per row in the old configuration.

Bottom Line

Airlines put their best products on the most competitive routes, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they chose to take these seats off Hong Kong route, and put them on higher yield and more competitive routes instead.

I’m surprised that United is still choosing to move forward with their second daily San Francisco to Hong Kong flight, given the current situation.

(Tip of the hat to Terence)

  1. UA is pretty rapidly converting the old CO 777s to the Polaris cabins, so it’s certainly not assured that it’ll be the old BF seats or 3-3-3 in Y.

    Scott Kirby characterized HKG as “terrible” currently, so this sadly comes as no surprise. CX meanwhile is slashing-and-burning its schedule. A bad situation…

  2. Very smart move by United as they are reducing seats by 76 on each flight.

    Any idea @Lucky where the -300ER’s were go since they won’t be in Hong Kong?? I was surprised United was going to Use the 777-200 on the Haneda route, any chance they change that to the -300er?

  3. Oh boy, things change. SFO-HKG was UA’s first long haul that received -300. All the fanfare seemed like just yesterday.

  4. At least United didn’t dig up some old 2-4-2 ‘dorm’ style business class seats like they did on the old 744 hkg route

  5. I think upguage should be a better term.

    People like @DCS will say who the f*** cares, please take my money. I am willing to fly 2-4-2 as @DCS seldom get inconvenienced by things like ‘2-4-2’ because he consider flying as primarily **transportation** that gets from point A to point B in relative comfort.

  6. Glad my flight back to San Francisco is on December 3rd! We just made the cut off. (I checked and it is in fact the newer Polaris seats). What “luck!”

  7. Quite excited to try out the Friendly Skies in its authentic form. Packing booze and sleep pills now; should be a great flight!

  8. Once again, Communism takes a center of Capitalist prosperity, imposes Party discipline, and turns it into another backward sxxthole. Soon the multi-national financial institutions that made HK into a World Class City will start to flee. I’m sure Singapore will be happy to welcome them. Soon to be known as: Communism Killing the Golden Goose, episode 39.

    Eventually UA will be flying a single aisle narrow body to HK, at least twice a week. But no worries, I’m confident that China Eastern will take up the slack. And that will be a deal, since there will be no need to buy your own cigarettes. Simply breath in the nicotine in the cabin air provided free of cost by the pilots.

    Just don’t feel too smug. Once the Green New Deal (sic) gets imposed here, we’ll all be commuting by bicycle, eating soy burgers, and lighting our homes with candles. To be known in the future as: Communism Killing the Golden Goose, episode 40.

  9. @Eskimo — Do you believe UA should continue full service to HKG using their 777-300ERs even though demand has declined and it would bone-headed, simply to prove people like @DCS wrong for not giving a damn about 2-4-2. Well, good for people like @DCS for not giving a damn because now those who do give a damn are going to be inconvenienced royally! Horror of horrors!

    What a sad commentary,…

  10. Traveling to HKG in a month, waiting for my GPU to clear (skeptical.jpg) currently in Premium Econ. Going with my spouse so honestly these would have been better. When solo i prefer the 1-2-1 J for sure but the 2-2-2 is a lot of fun with a friend or spouse IMO. Thank heavens it’s not 2-4-2. Layout aside though these seats are pretty shot and could use some padding replaced or w/e just to get some better sleep.

    @Robert Hanson – haha, never fails to end that way does it?

  11. @Robert Hanson – “Soon the multi-national financial institutions that made HK into a World Class City will start to flee” – you mean the multi-national corporations that made Hong Kong one of the most expensive places to live, where 98% of people work 16 hours a day to live in 20 square metre apartments that they will never afford to buy? Sure, sounds like a dream! lol

  12. @Eskimo — “People like @DCS will say who the f*** cares, please take my money. …”

    Why the unsolicited ad hominem?

  13. Delta flew a 777-200 from Seattle to Hong Kong until recently. They ended that flight just as the protests began. One wonders if they have an operational crystal ball.

  14. @ Mike – nope, Delta cancelled SEA-HKG almost a year ago already NOT recently, back in the beginning of October 2018, so unrelated to protest, and they had only been using 772 for 6 months since end of March 2018, previously was 332 for a very long time, you got it all mix up !!!

  15. Steve: After the treatment of United’s customers by poorly trained flight attendants and ground crews and apparently even it’s Pilots , I would not consider flying United if they were even more low cost then the most hated airlines in history Spirit Air.

  16. I thought things were getting better in Hong Kong. I couldn’t find on Google any protests since Carrie canned the extradition bill. China will never give up, but I think they may retreat for now

  17. Thank God I’m flying the week of Thanksgiving for my birthday. Been planning it for a while and would be upset at a degrade. But truth is, the old seats were fine. Not worried.

  18. @john – yes they are still flying the 8 across business configuration between SFO and LHR – and charging $10,000+ per ticket for the “privilege”. It’s the worst product yet they get away with it.

  19. Thank you for this reporting, I had no idea. I was just about to book my flight from SFO to HKG at the end of December and was considering UA for their Polaris class which I have never flown before. I’m going back to EVA.

  20. @Robert Hanson Thumbs UP!

    It amazes me that people support Democrats = COMMUNISM

    Of course media would never tell the truth about the GOAT Trump because media is owned by the corrupt establishment Democrats and RINOS.

    @JayFournier Oxymoron to say you’re looking to Google for truth.

    Google is also about as corrupt as one could be. Sad so many or the majority here swallow the rhetoric sold to you by mainstream media, print ie magazines, online garbage such as Google, HuffPo, Yahoo, anything against Trump. Propaganda for many lifetimes and then some.

    If you want truth conservative treehouse, jihad watch, judicial watch, American thinker. So many other sites that dispel the baloney that is on continual rotation by Democrats.

    Democrats wanting to take away freedoms and rights, while screeching all Trump supporters are nazi racist fascists evil scum.

    (how would they attempt to explain my best friends who I consider my FAMILY: are from Iran, Mexico City, Brazil, China <<<< those are the people who I would do anything for, yet I'm sold as the nazi racist) ?!

    Pot meet kettle.

    *thank you to Lucky for allowing me to post my comment

  21. Fares are still high, so is demand still there or have they drawn the line on a minimum acceptable fare?

  22. Shxxxt! Mine is in Jan from EWR to HK, now it still shows as Polaris, but the flight has changed to 200 and my seats were re-assigned to something random. This is probably the only time I decided to re-fly UA after feeling of “flying with shame” 2 years ago while I was on a Basic Economy with worst experience ever. UA is just not even better than marority of budget airlines, I really hope it can quit star alliance and stop shaming the alliance.

  23. Recently made the Chicago to Hong Kong flight and it was the 2 4 2 configuration in business. It was awful. ever again!

  24. Did you hear? Many Cathay Pacific crews are quitting, and moving on to work for Starlux Air, the new Taiwanese airline.

  25. @Markus — “Many Cathay Pacific crews are quitting, and moving on to work for Starlux Air, the new Taiwanese airline.”

    If true, this is a stroke of *genius* by Starlux Air, since it will get already-experienced top flight (no pun intended) personnel from CX, who might also want to then apply for Taiwan residency to escape whatever future wrath China will be inflicting upon remaining CX personnel in HK after its October 1 national observance!

    Starlux Air is a new startup luxury airline founded by the former chairman of EVA Air (BR) after he got displaced in a family spat over inheritance and business issues when his father passed away. Some have labeled Starlux Air as his come-back action after that ouster …

    So those now working at BR, who may want to transfer over to Starlux in loyalty to their former chairman, will have competition for those job positions! Things will get really interesting with BR once Starlux starts trans-Pacific flights to the West Coast of USA in the near future!

  26. I just booked a flight UA179 EWR TO HKG and noticed on the seat selection screen Orange seats and on the way back going through NRT to IAD Blue seat selection.

    I am pissed, looks like the old seat is back for sure………Can anyone confirm for sure the old seat is definitely back…. I fly out Jan 4th.

    Honestly though the old seat had more room, especially for your feet, the new seat the table sticks in your knees………….Feedback welcome, over 100 flights to HKG all business, thx Simon

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