United Airlines undeterred in August expansion by rising US coronavirus infections, EU ban
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.
The Chicago-based carrier views the uptick in infection counts as part of a “ebb and flow” in cases in various states since the pandemic began, said United vice president of domestic network planning Ankit Gupta during a media briefing on Wednesday. The airline is moving forward with plans to fly about 25,000 flights in August, including doubling the number of departures from its New York-area hub at Newark Liberty (EWR) airport compared to July.
The schedule additions also come as the EU bars most Americans from traveling to the 27-member country bloc. United plans to resume five routes to the European continent in August, all of which are to partner hubs in Brussels (BRU), Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC) and Zurich (ZRH).
“We are being extremely flexible in being able to move our capacity around,” said Gupta. However, he noted that bookings have tapered “a little bit” in the past week as U.S. COIVD-19 cases have mounted.
On Wednesday, United unveiled a robust August schedule that will see it fly roughly 40% of what it flew a year ago. This includes adding roughly 350 daily departures from the airline’s hubs compared to July, with the biggest increases at Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN) and Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH).
Gupta emphasized a “data-driven” approach to the schedule additions and cited the recent slow return of travelers on U.S. domestic routes.
The uptick in COVID-19 cases primarily in the south and west has raised concerns about the slow recovery of air travel. Wall Street analysts have highlighted it as a possible point of concern, including the recent decision by Connecticut, New Jersey and New York to mandate a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from states seeing rising infection numbers.
“The resurgence of COVID-19 in some areas of the U.S. adds uncertainty around potential further travel restrictions,” Goldman Sachs analyst Catherine O’Brien wrote on June 28.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has said that the carrier may pull some of its planned 2,000 daily flights in August, particularly ones to hard-hit areas like Florida, in light of the rising case numbers.
American Airlines has yet to release a final August schedule but had planned to fly about 65% of what it flew last year in July.
Adding to the uncertainty airlines face, federal authorities have not provided guidance on how to keep travelers and crewmembers safe from the virus on flights. Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield called out American’s decision to stop blocking middle seats as “sending the wrong message” at a Senate hearing on June 30 but, as yet, his agency has also declined to provide firm safety guidelines to airlines.
Blocking middle seats is “a PR strategy, not a safety strategy,” United spokesperson Josh Earnest said Wednesday in response to Redfield’s comment.
United touts its multi-layered approach to safety as keeping flyers safe. This includes mandating that everyone wear a mask onboard, as well as new cleaning and air-filtration procedures.
Internationally, United plans to fly just a quarter of what it flew a year ago in August. This includes resuming some routes to Europe despite the ban on U.S. travelers, as well as service to Tahiti (PPT) from San Francisco (SFO).
“When we look at the customers that are on our aircraft today, there are a disproportionate number of people with EU passports than normal,” said United vice president of international network and alliances Patrick Quayle on the affect of the border restrictions. Other markets, including to Australia and China, are also seeing high numbers of non-American flyers returning home.
Only one market in United’s updated schedule — Delhi (DEL) — cannot resume without local government sign off, he said. The airline plans to resume service to the Indian capital from both Newark and San Francisco in mid-July.
United has not said whether it will permanently drop leisure-oriented destinations in Europe as American did on Wednesday. For now, the Star Alliance member is focused on feeding the hubs of its partners Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss, plus limited service to London and Paris.
Featured image by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.