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United Airlines’ Africa, India, And Hawaii Expansion



United Airlines certainly knows how to generate buzz – yesterday United announced a route announcement that is happening today, and the details are official.

United Airlines has announced plans to add seven new routes, including flights to Africa, India, and Hawaii. All new routes are subject to government approval, and tickets will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. Exact schedules and dates have not been announced.

Let’s look at the details.

Flights of New United Airlines Africa

United Airlines is launching new routes to Accra, Johannesburg, and Lagos. This is amusing, as Africa is not a continent that has gained much love from US airlines in the past.

Route from Newark to Johannesburg

United will launch daily nonstop Boeing 787-9 flights between Newark and Johannesburg until spring 2021. With just under 8,000 miles per road, this will be one of United’s longest flights.

It fills 3x weekly seasonal flights to United Town in Cape Town, since that route was launched last year. In addition to this, United operates more flights to South Africa than any other US carrier.

It came at an interesting time for a couple of reasons:

United will launch daily flights to Johannesburg

Route from Washington to Accra

United will launch 3x weekly nonstop Boeing 787-8 flight between Washington Dulles and Accra until late spring 2021.

United will be the only US airline to fly non-stop between Washington and Accra, and the Washington metropolitan area has the second largest Ghanaian population in the US.

It represents a continuation of the route rather than a new route together, as United flew between Washington and Accra years ago, but the route was cut in 2012. Delta is currently alone the only US airline flying to Accra, while the plane serves Ghana outside New York.

The historic South Africa Airways also operated a flight between Washington and Accra, but it does not seem likely that it will continue anytime soon.

Route from Washington to Lagos

United will launch 3x weekly nonstop Boeing 787-8 flight between Washington Dulles and Lagos until late spring 2021.

United will be the first US airline to fly non-stop between Washington and Lagos, and Lagos will be the largest destination in Western Africa from the United States. However, it is also a destination where Delta beat United, as Delta flies from Atlanta and New York to Lagos. United will fly to Lagos back in the day from Houston, but that route was discontinued in 2016.

Flights of New United Airlines India

United Airlines is launching new routes to Bangalore and Delhi. United is the largest US airline in India, so it will only build there.

Route from Chicago to Delhi

United will launch daily nonstop Boeing 787-9 flights between Chicago and Delhi until December 2020. That flight will cover a distance of less than 7,500 miles, and will be the first of the new United routes to be launched.

It completes United’s existing service in Delhi outside of Newark and San Francisco. Chicago has the second largest Indian-American population in the United States. Air India also operates this route relentlessly, and it was a route operated by the Americans about a decade ago.

United will launch daily flights from Chicago to Delhi

Route from San Francisco to Bangalore

United will launch daily nonstop Boeing 787-9 flights between San Francisco and Bangalore until spring 2021. This is United’s first flight to Bangalore, and a second flight to India out of San Francisco. At 8,700+ miles, it will also be United’s longest flight, beating Houston to Sydney flights, which are over 100 miles shorter (and then San Francisco to Singapore flights are slightly shorter than that).

This is interesting because the Americans are planning on launching Seattle on Bangalore flights until 2021, as part of a Seattle growth strategy. I wonder if the Americans will reconsider flights to Bangalore now that United is also flying there.

Flights of New United Airlines Hawaii

United Airlines is launching two new “long-haul” routes to Hawaii, including Kona and Maui. In both cases, these flights represent the farthest east nonstop flights available from Hawaiian airports.

United already claim that it is the largest US airline between Hawaii and the mainland, and it will only build there.

Route from Chicago to Kona

United will launch 4x weekly nonstop Boeing 787-8 flights between Chicago and Kona until summer 2021.

It completes United Kona service outside of Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.


United will launch 4x weekly Chicago flights to Kona

Route from Newark to Maui

United will launch 4x weekly nonstop Boeing 767-300 flights between Newark and Maui until summer 2021.

It completes United Kona service outside of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

My commitment to United’s long expansion

United has long been the most creative and daring US airline when it comes to long-term expansion, and it all builds. Obviously airlines are in a tough place right now, since business travel is unlikely to recover over many years.

While some of these flights have the potential to have great business needs, it is also clear that the priority is routes with minimal leisure traffic, where you will find people visiting family in other countries . After all, that would be the first kind of long journey to recover. This is even something United has emphasized, by pointing to the large population in these US cities in relation to destinations.

At the same time:

  • I can’t help but wonder about routes like this when travel restrictions are still in place, with no signs of being removed
  • Does United really think that all these routes will be useful in the long run, or will they be less useful than other routes in the coming years?
  • Is United dropping any routes temporarily, as it is somewhat an extension?

Aside from the economy, it is incredible how United differentiates itself from the American and Delta when it comes to how global its route network is.

What will you do with the new United routes to Africa, Hawaii, and India?




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