United Airlines adds 3 more routes to growing Washington Dulles hub

Oct 4, 2019

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United Airlines continues to build up its Washington Dulles hub as a major north-south connecting complex on the U.S. East Coast, adding new flights to Akron/Canton, Philadelphia and West Palm Beach.

Starting Feb. 13, the Star Alliance carrier will offer one daily round-trip flight between Dulles and West Palm Beach (PBI) in Florida, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and United confirmed. Beginning May 8, United will add three daily flights between Dulles (IAD) and Akron/Canton (CAK) in Ohio and four daily flights between Dulles and Philadelphia (PHL).

United will operate 50-seat regional jets on the Akron and Philadelphia routes, and a 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700 on the West Palm Beach route.

Related: United Airlines has saved 40,000 connections by holding flights

The three cities, all of which United already serves, are the latest route additions to the connecting hub it’s building at Dulles. The airline begins service to Fort Myers (RSW) and Sarasota (SRQ) later this month, and added service to five other cities earlier this year: Asheville, North Carolina (AVL); Elmira, New York (ELM); Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH); Lexington, Kentucky (LEX); and Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT).

United is returning to the Dulles-Philadelphia market, which it dropped in January. Airline spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said the resumption is part of a continuous review of customer demand.

“Dulles… is a great connecting hub for us,” Ankit Gupta, vice-president of domestic network planning at United, told FlightGlobal in 2018. “We want to position Dulles as somewhere you can travel from across the globe… but also be able to connect to from all up and down the East Coast.”

United will fly roughly 5% more seats at Dulles this year versus 2018, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. Flight numbers will be up roughly 5.2%.

The carrier’s seat growth in Dulles is second only to Denver (DEN), the focus of its vaunted mid-continent hub expansion, among its seven domestic hubs this year, the data shows.

To accommodate the growth at Dulles, United added two gates to its portfolio of roughly 75 gates there in June. A new Polaris lounge for international business class passengers is under construction.

The airline is studying adding two or four more flight “banks” — a period of time when a number of arriving and departing flights are scheduled to connect — at Dulles, executives have said since 2018. Adding flight banks would allow United to grow more efficiently by better utilizing its facilities at the airport throughout the day, instead just select periods.

Related: The eight best credit cards for flying United

The potential growth is part of a resurgence for United at Dulles. Set up as first an East Coast hub in 1986 and a transatlantic gateway from 1990, the hubs fortunes have risen and fallen with the carrier. Most recently, seats were cut by nearly a fifth from 2010 to 2015 in the years immediately following United’s merger with Continental Airlines, according to Diio.

United will face no direct competition on any of the three new routes from Dulles, Diio schedules show. However, American Airlines flies between Washington National (DCA) and all three cities; and JetBlue Airways between National and West Palm Beach.

Southwest Airlines also flies between Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and West Palm Beach, according to the data.

Featured image by Edward Russell/TPG.

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