United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is mincing no words: United plans to be the world’s largest airline by next summer as it awaits the return of its 777 jets and continues to take delivery of new jets.
United Airlines Plans To Be World’s Largest Airline By Summer 2022
In a video message to employees reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, Kirby recounts his week in Scotland at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), noting:
- United Airlines was the only major airline invited
- He dined with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and met with other world leaders this week
- United Airlines has been universally praised for its proactive climate initiatives, which include:
- Carbon sequestration
- Electric aircraft
- Sustainable aviation fuel
- Attendees love Polaris class and “dozens” have raved to him about the seat and the great service onboard
But it gets interesting when Kirby talks about growth. Comparing United’s disciplined growth to the irresponsible growth at “our competition” (American Airlines) that has led dismal operational performance, Kirby suggests more rapid growth will soon return to United, positioning it to be the largest airline in the world:
“What we’re doing in the next couple years is going to really solidify our position as the leading global airline in a way that no one else could ever catch up with us. We made all the right decisions, we made the hard decisions going through COVID, but we set ourselves up to to be the leading global airline and we’re doing it responsibly and have avoided some of the challenges and the meltdowns that have happened at other airlines.
“And we are responsibly growing that schedule back, you’re going to see us quickly go from having a smaller schedule during COVID when it was appropriate to have a smaller schedule to, as we see real demand at Christmas and the business demand start to recover in January, you’re going to see us, particularly once we get the 777s back, getting back to 100% and well beyond 100% of where were were in 2019.
“By the time we get to next summer, I think it’s going to be gangbusters. All of our business travel won’t be back yet, but we’re going to be the largest airline in the world, I suspect. More importantly, we’re going to be the biggest airline in the world.
He doesn’t define largest or biggest…he’s a politician too, after all. Airline size can be measured in many ways:
- Revenue passenger miles (RSM) – the sum of the distances flown by all passengers over the course of the year
- Available seat miles (ASM) – a measure of an airplane’s total carrying capacity available to generate income
- Fleet size
- Company revenue
- Routes served
Which metrics will make United largest or biggest? I’ve reached out to United for comment.
Kirby notes “we’ve given ourselves the chance to be, not just the biggest, but the best airline in the world.” Biggest, largest, and best are lofty expectations, but as American Airlines falters and Delta Air Lines seems to be taking a more cautious approach, Kirby’s words are not mere lip service to employees, but underscore United’s current trajectory.
image: Scott Kirby / Instagram