United Airlines will return Boeing 787s to LAX even as it plans for a skeletal autumn schedule
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
United Airlines may be among the more conservative U.S. carriers, flying a greatly reduced schedule during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has not lost its competitive edge.
The Chicago-based carrier has reversed plans to close its Boeing 787 pilot base in Los Angeles (LAX) citing a “changing competitive environment,” United told pilots in a crew resources update on Friday viewed by TPG. Crews will initially staff the reinstated flight between Los Angeles and Sydney (SYD) that United begins in September.
The decision also comes just 10 days after American Airlines, the largest carrier at LAX, revealed that it will end most long-haul flying from the airport. Gone are flights to Beijing, Buenos Aires (EZE), Hong Kong (HKG), São Paulo (GRU) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) — the last pending government approval — leaving just Auckland (AKL), London Heathrow (LHR) and Sydney to resume after the pandemic.
A couple of months ago, @united announced, and I reported, that the Boeing 787 pilot base in Los Angeles would close, putting long-haul routes in jeopardy. But recently, @AmericanAir announced a big pullback to Asia from L.A. And look what’s happening … pic.twitter.com/7BySspa0HX
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) July 10, 2020
United’s seemingly about face on 787s in Los Angeles is more a signal of what the new normal is at airlines: flexibility. If air travel demand does not fit the schedule? Cut flights, and not 90 days early as before the crisis but less than 30 days before departure.
The same goes to staffing. Even with warnings of possible furloughs going to some 2,500 pilots on July 8, United’s crew resources update shows it is willing to change its plans quickly and adeptly in response to the market.
United still faces a tough road ahead. The airline is among those more exposed to the slowdown in business and international travel, neither of which have returned in significant numbers. The stalling recovery has, to date, been led by U.S. domestic leisure flyers.
The return of leisure travelers first has been an outsized benefit to low-cost carriers, like Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines. American has also benefitted as the major carrier with the largest domestic schedule.
In July, American plans to fly domestically around 55% of what it flew last year, according to Cirium schedules. This compares to just 30% at United, 40% at Delta Air Lines or even 90% at Spirit.
But the crisis is getting worse again before it gets better. United CEO Scott Kirby told staff in a video message on July 8 viewed by TPG that the carrier expects its scheduled will be down roughly 60% year-over-year on Oct.1 — or about 2,000 daily flights based on its Oct. 2019 schedule.
The outlook followed industrywide recognition that the return of travelers is stalling as COVID-19 cases rise in many parts of the country. At the same time, travel restrictions are limiting visitors in many places.
“We’ve actually seen demand go [down], and revenue remains down over 80%,” Kirby said. “What that means is our August schedule is likely going to be the peak of our schedule and we’re not going to be able to grow it in September and October.”
One notable fleet addition mentioned in the crew update: the Boeing 757 will return to United’s domestic schedule. The jets, which do not include the airline’s premium 757-200s, join Boeing 767-300ERs in the airline’s operations.
Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees