Adjusting to weaker demand, United Airlines is trimming service to both Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia.
United’s Hong Kong Reductions
With civil unrest leading to weaker demand, United already cut back service to Hong Kong earlier this year. Chicago – Hong Kong has been suspended and the equipment from both San Francisco and Newark to Hong Kong has been downguaged from a 777-300 to a 777-200.
From January 12, 2020 thru March 27, Newark – Hong Kong (UA179/180) will shift from daily to three times weekly, operating on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. For a three-week period in late January and February, the flight will only operate two days per week.
San Francisco will remain twice daily, but during the same three-week period in January and February will only operate its second daily HKG service five days per week instead of daily.
This temporary change will help us adapt to the current environment, particularly during a time of the year that we historically see the lowest demand. We will also continue to serve Hong Kong twice daily from San Francisco.
United’s Melbourne Reductions
United is also scaling back its Los Angeles to Melbourne to flight. A nonstop from San Francisco recently started and LAX is seeing weaker demand as a result. During the Australian winter schedule, service will be reduced from daily to four times weekly. The service will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday between March 28, 2020 and October 22. After October 22nd, daily nonstop service from Los Angeles will resume again.
United’s Agile Route Planning
One of the things that Patrick Quayle, United’s Vice President of International Planning, has stressed is the agility of the United team to make last-minute changes to the schedule. With the Hong Kong and Melbourne schedule changes, we see this on full display. Here, we’re not talking about schedule changes several months away. We are talking about short-term adjustments.
Where will the extra aircraft go? Traditionally, they have been used for domestic flights. We’ll see if any more 777s or 787s appear in the domestic schedule during the winter period.
The further Hong Kong route cuts come as no surprise. With demand still weak, United’s decision to further scale back service to Hong Kong simply makes sense. As a Los Angeles resident, I’m more concerned about the Melbourne route. I figured the new San Francisco – Melbourne route would balkanize the LA flight and that seems to be happening. Hopefully Los Angeles to Melbourne won’t go the way of Los Angeles to Singapore.