United Airlines adds Mexico, Caribbean flights in major summer boost

Mar 15, 2021

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If you’re planning a short-haul international trip this summer, United will likely have a flight for you.

Over the weekend, the Chicago-based carrier loaded a major frequency boost for its short-haul international network, adding flights to nearly every destination it serves in Mexico, as well as some in the Caribbean and Central America.

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Mexico adjustments

Specifically, United added 1,091 flights to or from Mexico for travel between May and October, according to Cirium schedules. This represents a nearly 20% increase compared to the previous plan, likely showing the carrier’s confidence in short-haul travel returning as more Americans get vaccinated.

United’s sweeping summer boost affects nearly every hub — Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR) and San Fransisco (SFO) — on every Mexico-bound route.

This includes some of the major tourist spots, like Cancun (CUN) and Puerto Vallarta (PVR), but also extends to less popular destinations like Acapulco (ACA) and Zihuatanejo (ZIH).

A full list of Mexico route adjustments is below based on Cirium data for June 2021:

Origin Destination Adjustment
DEN CUN From 2x to 3x daily
DEN CZM From 1x to 2x weekly
DEN PVR From 1x to 2x daily
DEN SJD From 1x weekly to 2x daily
EWR PVR From 1x to 3x weekly
EWR SJD From 2x to 4x weekly
IAH ACA From 1x to 4x weekly
IAH MEX One additional frequency
IAH ZIH From 1x to 4x weekly
IAH ZLO One additional frequency
LAX PVR From 2x weekly to 1x daily
LAX SJD From 9x weekly to 3x daily
ORD BJX 1x daily resuming
ORD CZM 1x weekly resuming
ORD PVR From 1x weekly to 1x daily
ORD SJD From 1x weekly to 1x daily
SFO SJD Four additional frequencies


Caribbean adjustments

The same story applies to the Caribbean, where the airline is adding 526 flights between May and October, representing a nearly 20% boost from the previous schedule. Many of the biggest increases come on once-weekly routes that will now be flown daily during the summer, including Newark (EWR) to St. Maarten (SXM) and Washington Dulles (IAD) to Aruba (AUA).

A full list of Caribbean route adjustments is below based on Cirium data for June 2021:

Origin Destination Adjustment
EWR GCM From 1x to 3x weekly
EWR STT From 1x weekly to 2x daily
EWR SXM From 1x weekly to 1x daily
IAD AUA From 1x weekly to 1x daily
IAD MBJ From 1x weekly to 3x weekly
IAD NAS Schedule extended through summer
IAD PLS Schedule extended through summer
IAH PLS From 1x weekly to 4x weekly
ORD STT Schedule extended through summer

Central America adjustments

The increases are even more drastic in Central America. United just added 304 flights to the region for this summer, representing a 120% boost compared to the previous plan. One of the bright spots in the region is Costa Rica, where United’s adding 112 flights, including extending the season for some routes, such as Denver (DEN) to San Jose (SJO).

A full list of Central America route adjustments is below based on Cirium data for June 2021:

Origin Destination Adjustment
DEN BZE Schedule extended through summer
DEN LIR From 1x to 3x weekly
DEN SJO Schedule extended through summer
EWR BZE Schedule extended through summer
EWR LIR From 2x to 3x weekly
IAD SAL From 1x daily to 10x weekly
LAX SAL From 1x daily to 10x weekly
LAX SAP From 3x weekly to 5x weekly
ORD BZE Schedule extended through summer
ORD SJO Schedule extended through summer

Related: Where you can go if you’re vaccinated

Though United is adding frequencies across its short-haul international network, none of the routes are actually new for the carrier. Instead, the airline is either resuming temporarily suspended service or extending the season on other limited-time flights. Nevertheless, United’s currently offering 32 routes to Central America, more than any other U.S. airline.

This sweeping schedule update comes shortly after President Biden promised that all Americans should have access to a vaccine by the end of May. Despite a slower-than-expected rollout, the pace of vaccine distribution is ramping up quickly across the country.

As more pandemic-weary travelers are vaccinated, many will begin to explore travel options. Some flyers will likely limit trips to the lower 48, though others might be itching for a warm escape down south.

Industry experts are predicting a massive pent-up demand for travel, especially from leisure and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic, and United’s latest move is seemingly reacting to the news that the first major wave of mid-pandemic travel might be on the horizon.

Related: Vacationers drive travel rebound; flights filling up to Florida, other outdoor destinations

In fact, on Monday, the carrier wrote in an SEC filing that it expects to reach positive cash flow for the month of March 2021, assuming that “the current trajectory of booking improvement is sustained.”

“If the current rate of improvement in bookings continues, the Company expects core cash flow to be positive moving forward,” the airline wrote in the filing.

After getting vaccinated, many travelers are then booking trips (Photo by nodrama_llama/Shutterstock)

Of course, with most international destinations still off-limits, this shift in focus from long- to short-haul travel makes sense.

Domestically, the carrier is also making several route adjustments.

For those looking for an early summer escape to Florida, United is adding flights to the following destinations in May and June, from both its Chicago (ORD) and Houston (IAH) hubs:

  • Panama City (ECP)
  • Destin-Fort Walton Beach (VPS)

Elsewhere, United is cutting one of its recently expanded routes. In late January, UA boosted four Denver to Florida routes, including nonstop service to West Palm Beach (PBI). That route will now end on May 3, roughly four months earlier than the originally planned Sept. 6.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy




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