United Airlines is finding its mission to expand to secondary cities in China is not as profitable as initially hoped for. The carrier will suspend service to Hangzhou effective October 16, 2017.
We have no official announcement from United yet, but the flight has been pulled from the schedule after 10/14/17 (leaving SFO) and 10/16 (returning) and does not appear again, dashing hopes that at least the route would stay seasonal.
I flew from San Francisco to Hangzhou in June — just to check out the new Park Hyatt Hangzhou — and had no trouble securing an upgrade. Though the flight went out with only a few open seats in business class, it was mostly empty in economy class.
Being over 12hours, the flight is long enough to experience the entire Polaris soft product, but apparently a refreshed menu, pajamas, slippers, and the best business class bedding in the world was not enough.
United does not compete with any Chinese carriers on the SFO-HGH route. Sichuan Airlines operates the route from Los Angeles, but does not even have lie-flat seating in business class.
United still offers service beyond Shanghai and Beijing to Chengdu and Xi’an. I’m hearing that loads are particularly bad on Xi’an (a seasonal route) so it would not shock me to see that route dropped as well.
United Playing Hardball with Rebooking
Numerous reports on Flyertalk suggest that United is only offering rebooking from Shanghai. That seems to violate at least the spirit of United’s new customer service commitment if not its explicit guarantee.
Shanghai and Hangzhou are 109 miles apart, a 2hr30min drive. That’s like saying, “Oh, we’re cancelling service from Austin. Just drive to Houston.” It’s insulting.
If your flight to/from HGH has been cancelled, do not accept United’s paltry offer to re-accomodate you to/from Shanghai. Star Alliance partners Air China (via Beijing) and EVA (via Taipei) serve HGH and United seres both PEK and TPE.
It takes time to build up a customer base and this route is only a year old. A pity United could not give it a bit more time…