United Airlines will close its 757, 767 ,and 787 pilot base at Los Angeles International Airport. Will United longhaul flights ever return to LAX? Will LAX lose its hub status?
While the Boeing 787 will become the “workhorse” of the United longhaul network, LAX will lose its 787 base and United does not predict any 787 service from LAX for “at least” a year. Furthermore, LAX does not have a 777 base and United will also close its 756 (757 + 767) base at LAX as well.
What does that mean for longhaul operations at LAX? Well, unless United suddenly upguages to 777s at LAX flown by SFO pilots, it appears we will not see any longhaul flights for at least a year.
It would be one thing if the pilot base closed and United flew in 787 pilots from Houston or San Francisco to operate longhaul flights from LAX. But United explicitly told pilots the 787 will likely not operate out of LAX for over a year.
The Death Of United’s LAX Hub?
I asked United for clarification and a spokesperson told me:
“We don’t have any additional insights to share on this at the moment.”
And of course that got me thinking…with incoming CEO Scott Kirby saying there are no “sacred cows” when asked if hubs could be sacrificed due to COVID-19, is LAX the first on the chopping block?
Now I can understand why United would serve Sydney and Melbourne only from San Francisco. I also get why United may limit Shanghai service, since it seemed the was the easiest flight in the system to score an upgrade on prior to COVID-19. But what about Tokyo and London? Those are vital links and I doubt United will have much connecting premium traffic when so many other nonstop options are available.
And what about all the routes currently served by 757s? Will those be absorbed by others or shift only to 737s?
Like with so much during this pandemic, facts are still emerging and it likely is too early to tell, though if this is the beginning of the end for LAX, this is a very sad day indeed.
It’s not just longhaul service that makes a hub a hub. Connecting traffic is also an important indicator as it number of available seats. But if LAX loses all longhaul services, United becomes an even smaller relic of the past. Since LAX is my home base in the USA, this would hit particularly close to home.