United Airlines adds 5 new routes, Delta cuts Texas route from former Cincinnati hub

Aug 10, 2020

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United Airlines is adding five new routes to its schedule this fall, launching new service to Alamosa, Colorado, and Abilene, Texas, even as it anticipates being up to 50% smaller amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier will add new service this September between its Denver (DEN) hub and Alamosa (ALS); Rochester, Minnesota (RST); and Sioux City, Iowa (SUX), according to Cirium schedule data. In addition, United will add service between Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Abilene (ABI) and Chattanooga, Tennessee (CHA).

While United is adding some spokes to its map, Delta Air Lines continues to cut its former base in Cincinnati (CVG). The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will end service between Cincinnati and Austin (AUS), a route that has been suspended since April, Cirium shows.

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The schedule changes come as both Delta and United head for an autumn that will be challenged by COVID-19. Both airlines plan to fly significantly less than they did in 2019, flying reduced schedules after a so-called “V-shaped” recovery from the virus failed to emerge during the summer. The schedule cuts mean fewer staff are needed with potential furlough notices sent to thousands of employees.

“We expect the recovery in demand we’ll see to be jagged,” United CEO Scott Kirby said on July 22. He added that the airline does not expect air travel to recover beyond about half of 2019 levels until a vaccine is widely available, something he hopes for by the end of 2021.

Data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows passenger traffic stalled at down around 60% compared to 2019 since the beginning of July.

Related: United Airlines worries travel recovery will stall until there’s a COVID vaccine

But travelers have begun to return to places where they can be outside,such as beach and mountain destinations. This has driven numerous flight additions to places like Aspen, Colorado (ASE), and Bozeman, Montana (BZN), since the pandemic began.

United’s five new routes will all be flown by SkyWest Airlines with Bombardier CRJ200s outfitted with 50 seats. Alamosa service is subsidized by the federal government’s essential air service (EAS) program, while the Sioux City route is supported by local funds.

Delta’s move to cut service between Austin and Cincinnati follows decisions to close its flight attendant and pilot bases in Cincinnati. The airport had been the airline’s main Midwestern hub prior to its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines, but has shrunk since then. Delta now counts it as neither a hub nor a focus city.

Related: Delta Air Lines ‘committed’ to new Boston hub; Austin, Raleigh focus cities

Delta spokesperson Drake Castañeda told TPG that the airline continues to evaluate and adjust its schedule based on travel demand, travel restrictions and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Separately, Alaska Airlines continues to add new routes to its map. The Seattle-based carrier will begin daily service between San Diego (SAN) and Santa Barbara (SBA) on Nov. 20. Alaska will operate an Embraer E175 with 76 seats on the route.

Alaska, Delta and United all plan to be markedly smaller this fall than they were in 2019. While schedules beyond September are not final, Alaska plans to fly more than 60% of what it flew in North America during the same month last year. Delta plans to fly around 58% and United roughly 41%, Cirium data shows.

Related: Global air travel unlikely to recover until 2024 as COVID remains ‘issue’ in US, elsewhere

Below are details of United’s new routes this fall.

Denver

  • Alamosa: up to twice daily flights beginning Oct. 1
  • Rochester: daily flights beginning Oct. 1
  • Sioux City: daily flights beginning Oct. 14

Houston

  • Abilene: twice daily flights beginning Oct. 21
  • Chattanooga: daily flights beginning Oct. 1

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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