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

Aug. 26, 2021
3 min read
plane on tarmac
United gears up for winter with a brand-new Orange County-to-Aspen route
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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 image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases