UPDATED: United Airlines reinstates 6 long-haul routes to latest coronavirus cuts

Mar 21, 2020

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Editor’s note: the story has been updated to reflect a revision by United to its schedule since it initially unveiled plans to suspend all long-haul international flying on Friday.

United Airlines will operate just six long-haul routes through at least May, moving to keep some international connectivity after earlier plans to cut its entire intercontinental network amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Star Alliance carrier will operate just one daily flight on six routes from its Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) hubs from the end of March until at least May, United said Saturday. The routes are:

  • Houston – São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU)
  • Newark – Frankfurt (FRA), London Heathrow (LHR) and Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • San Francisco – Sydney (SYD) and Tokyo Narita (NRT)

The routes will operate under a 90% reduction in United’s international capacity through April. Other remaining international services include a “small number of daytime flights” to Mexico, as well as some routes on the carrier’s island-hopper schedule from Guam.

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The schedule is a revision to plans unveiled Friday for United to suspend 95% of its international capacity, including all long-haul international flying.

United’s latest long-haul reductions came hours after CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby, as well as the leaders of the airlines’ labor unions, told employees in a letter that “even more cost-cutting measures will be required soon to keep our company afloat.”

“We continue to be among the most severely affected by the economic impact of this crisis, due to the outbreak’s breathtaking effect on travel demand,” they said. The airline has cut system capacity by at least 60% in April and May.

Related: United slashes capacity by 60% due to coronavirus

United is not alone slashing international capacity as the COVID-19 crisis continues. American Airlines is suspending all but three long-haul routes to London and Tokyo, and keeping some flights to the Caribbean and Mexico. Delta Air Lines is keeping the most international routes, including destinations on five continents, even as it winds down 70% of its operation.

However, the crisis is remains dynamic and further cuts by airlines are likely.

The U.S. government has warned American citizens from traveling abroad, issuing a “do not travel” advisory on Thursday. In addition, it is closing both the Canadian and Mexico borders to all but cargo and essential travel to slow the spread of COVID-19.

United’s latest cuts will see its route map temporarily return to a nearly all-domestic state unseen since the early 1980s. The airline lacked any long-haul routes until flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo began in 1983, and it only became a major international player when it bought Pan Am’s Pacific operation in 1986.

Related: US State Department issues ‘level 4’ warning against international travel

Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

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