United Airlines boosts Denver hub in 4-route Florida expansion

Jan 26, 2021

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Florida, with its plethora of year-round outdoor activities, has been one of the most popular leisure destinations throughout the pandemic.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that United is doubling down on its Denver hub to the one region that has proven resilient to the pandemic-related decreased flight demand.

During the past weekend, the Chicago-based carrier loaded a revised schedule for the spring, and it boosted its Denver to Florida flying dramatically.

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Specifically, the carrier added 37% more flights from Denver to the Sunshine State between March and May 2021 in its latest schedule update. The following routes saw the most dramatic increases, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by the carrier.

  • Denver (DEN) to Destin-Fort Walton Beach (VPS): 32 added flights
  • Denver (DEN) to Pensacola (PNS): 18 added flights
  • Denver (DEN) to Sarasota–Bradenton (SRQ): 18 added flights
  • Denver (DEN) to West Palm Beach (PBI): 39 added flights

According to United, these latest additions are a reflection of how nimble it’s been in responding to demand trends. With plenty of beaches and temperate weather, Florida is one of the handful of destinations with built-in social distancing.

More: A history of United’s Denver hub

Of course, these flights are great for those looking to get from Colorado to Florida, but they’re also helpful for the tens of thousands of people who connect through Denver each day.

Throughout the pandemic, Denver has been one of the busiest airports for United. In December 2020, the carrier flew just 29% fewer flights through its Colorado hub compared to December 2019, according to Cirium data. Systemwide, United slashed nearly 50% of its flying in December 2020 compared to the year prior.

Relative to its other hubs, Denver saw the fewest flight reductions. Compare that to Newark, where United slashed more than 60% of flights in December 2020 compared to the year prior.

Not only has Denver generally weathered the pandemic, but it has also become a key growth city for the carrier.

In January 2020, United outlined plans to grow its Denver hub to more than 700 daily departures by 2025. That was pre-pandemic, of course. But if United returns to that trajectory after the COVID-19 crisis eases, it would give the airline its busiest schedule ever there —and potentially enough to make the Mile High City the second-busiest on its route map.

To fuel the expansion, Denver Airport is in the midst of a massive construction project, adding 39 gates across the three concourses. The first four gates opened around Thanksgiving and United has already started using them.

The new Concourse B space is bright and airy. (Image courtesy of Denver International Airport)

“These new gates really represent optimism here on our future in Denver,” Matt Miller, vice president of United’s Denver hub, said in November. He reiterated the airline’s commitment to the hub and its larger footprint that will encompass 90 gates when the full expansion work is complete in about a year.

United’s latest Denver expansion is also exciting for Floridians seeking cooler weather and access to winter sports. With the added nonstop flights, getting to the mountains couldn’t be easier.

Nevertheless, the focus is seemingly on bringing people to Florida.

Earlier this year, United unveiled two other new Florida routes, one from Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Panama City (ECP) and another from Houston (IAH) to Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ).

These join multiple other new “sun-and-fun” routes to Florida — Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Pensacola (PNS) and Houston (IAH) and Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Key West (EYW) — that were added to the schedule in recent weeks.

Other carriers, including American and JetBlue, have also boosted Florida flights. Fort Worth-based American will add service to Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) beginning on April 2. JetBlue is doubling down on South Florida, too, adding Miami and Key West to its route map on Feb. 11.

Featured photo courtesy of Denver International Airport




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