United Airlines is adjusting its winter longhaul schedule this weekend. The story is not just the upgauges and downgauges, but the strategy behind them and the versatility of the United fleet.
First, let’s starts with the changes, which include a mix of downgauges (smaller aircraft) on route with reduced demand and upgauges (larger aircraft) on routes with greater demand. No routes will be suspended beyond what has already been announced.
- Los Angeles – Shanghai – 787-10 to 787-9 (from December 7, 2019 to January 31, 2020)
- Newark – Hong Kong – 777-300 to 777-200
- San Francisco – Beijing – 777-300 to 777-200
- San Francisco – Hong Kong – both flights will operate with a 777-200
- Houston – Rio de Janeiro – 767-300 to 767-400
- Houston – Santiago – 767-300 to 767-400
- Houston – Sao Paulo – 767-300 to 777-200
- Newark – Sao Paulo – 777-200 to 777-300
- Newark – Tel Aviv – 787-10 to 777-300 (daytime flight)
- San Francisco – Auckland – 777-200 to 787-10
- San Francisco – Frankfurt – 777-200 to 777-300 (evening flight)
- San Francisco – Tokyo Haneda – 787-9 to 787-10 (from January, 2020 to March, 2020)
I had a chat with Patrick Quayle, United’s Vice President of International Planning, about these changes. In laying them out, he underscored the agility of his team and their forecasting tools to make these changes so late in the game. We’re just weeks away from the start of the winter schedule. Even as United is already preparing the Winter 2020/2021 schedule, its modifications to this winter’s schedule suggest a new nimbleness that has not been possible in the past.
He also noted a broader underlying strategy emerging at United: time of day choice. United recently announced the addition of second daily flights to Amsterdam and Frankfurt from Newark. Despite reduced demand, a second daily San Francisco to Hong Kong flight is still coming. Twice-daily San Francisco to Frankfurt is now year-around and you can catch double daily flights from SFO to London, Seoul, or Singapore as well. And that’s just San Francisco.
Quayle explained that morning and evening departures keep business travelers on United. That’s self-apparent enough, but he used the example of “competition” to Hong Kong [Cathay Pacific] to note that otherwise loyal, lucrative business passengers who needed to leave in the evening might book away from United since its Hong Kong flights left in the morning. The new second SFO flight will depart SFO in the evening and leave HKG in the evening, allowing for greater flexibility.
As United learned with the foolish choice to abandon United JFK, sometimes you have to look beyond performance on a specific route or specific station to understand the ripple effects of offering consistent service with time of day choice. I asked if United could really sustain a second Hong Kong flight from SFO with civil unrest greatly reducing demand and was told that it was part of a longer-term investment.
It’s “downgauge,” not “guage.”
Just when I think it’s ok to fly United….nope my flight was downgraded my family members split up and Polaris magically filled even though they are supposed to fill from Premium Plus. Wonderful, I wouldn’t have even known had I not read the above and pulled up my reservation. AUK-SFO. Ugh.
Those terms are all “-gauge” not “-guage”. Like the term used in model trains. 😉
Correct! I’ve fixed the typos.
What are the chances that my early Feb SFO-NRT flight will still be on a 777-300 (which is what & why I booked it – to get the true Polaris seats)?
[redacted by admin] united now is expensive and they charge 40 first bag and 100 second and sits are small very bad service going back to aa
Smart. Move larger aircraft to Brazil and Chile in the lower hemisphere’s summer season when traffic is heaviest there. Everyone is fighting over Asia when in reality Brazil and Chile are the quiet winners for the future. Brazil is a juggernaut about to happen for both tourism and business. United needs to also build on and cement a bigger partnership with Azul.
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Hate to nitpick, but you’re a top Op Ed/news-source and mistakes just distract people from your message.
“…on route[s] with reduced demand…”
“…second daily flights to Newark [Amsterdam] and Frankfurt from Newark.”
Hello;I have a ticket pending to fly to my country and before I was planning to travel but I canceled and I want to know what do I have to do to fix my ticket.