United gears up for winter with a brand-new Orange County-to-Aspen route

Aug 26, 2021

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If you’re planning to hit the slopes this winter, United has a new option to get you there.

On Thursday, the Chicago-based carrier loaded a brand-new route from Orange County (SNA) in Southern California to Aspen (ASE), perhaps Colorado’s most iconic ski resort. The daily, seasonal service will begin just in time for the winter holidays on Dec. 16 and run through March 26, 2022.

The two-hour, eight-minute flight will be operated by United Express partner Skywest aboard a CRJ-700, featuring six first-class recliners and 64 coach seats.

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Flights are already available for sale, with one-way fares starting at $259 for coach and jumping to $439 for first class. As of press time, there were plenty of saver award seats and upgrade availability on the new route. For now, United’s charging 12,500 miles for a saver coach redemption, and 25,000 miles for first.

With this addition, United says it will offer nonstop service to the most ski destinations from Southern California. In Colorado, the airline will serve Aspen, Vail/Eagle, Hayden/Steamboat and Montrose/Telluride. The carrier will also fly to Bishop/Mammoth (another new route for the airline), Sun Valley, Bozeman/Big Sky and Jackson Hole.

While all eight of the aforementioned destinations will be served from Los Angeles (LAX), only Aspen is lucky enough to be served from both LAX and Orange County.

A United Express Embraer 175 in Bozeman (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This unique route from Orange County could be a hit with local residents who prefer to fly from the John Wayne Airport, which is far more convenient for flyers who live south of LAX. Additionally, the airport itself is much easier to navigate, another reason why those looking for some winter fun will prefer this new United route.

Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see if this unique point-to-point route will be successful for United. Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium shows that just eight passengers on average traveled from Orange County to Aspen each day in the first quarter of 2019. Of course, that’s likely because no nonstop flights existed then — all of those passengers needed to connect to get to the slopes.

Related: United bets big on winter travel in 39-route boost to the mountains

Looking at nearby LAX, though, shows that nearly 155 passengers flew to Aspen each day in the first quarter of 2019. Though United held a 56% share of passengers flying between LAX and Aspen in that quarter, the airline’s likely hoping to grow that number with the new SNA route — especially since it won’t have any competition from Orange County.

This isn’t United’s only new route from Orange County during the pandemic. In May, the carrier re-launched service to Honolulu from the airport, marking the first time the route’s been flown since 2012.

United inherited two legacy Continental routes, one from SNA to HNL and another from SNA to Maui/Kahului (OGG) when the carriers merged in 2010. United stopped the Maui flight in January 2012, followed by the Honolulu one six months later. Now, the newly relaunched Honolulu flight is seemingly performing well enough for United to keep it on the schedule year-round.

As for Aspen, only time will tell how it performs. But, during the pandemic when people are seeking outdoor-friendly activities and many international destinations are still closed to Americans, the odds are in United’s favor.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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