United pushes back two major long-haul launches following low demand
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.
This may not come as a tremendous surprise — especially following the news that the airline’s New York-JFK relaunch has been pushed back a few weeks — but United has opted to delay two of its most notable 2021 launches. The airline is rescheduling its inaugural flights to Bangalore, India, and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Previously, United had planned to begin daily service from Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB) on March 27, 2021, with San Francisco (SFO) to Bangalore (BLR) — the carrier’s new longest route — scheduled for daily service beginning May 6. Now, those launches have been pushed back to June 3 and May 27, respectively.
United began canceling impacted reservations last week, as I experienced with my own reservation to JNB:
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
It appears that the change had been initiated before President Biden announced an expansion of the U.S. travel ban, which now includes visitors from South Africa.
According to a United spokesperson:
As travel demand remains at historic lows due to the pandemic, we continue to be nimble and flexible with our network and schedules by making adjustments to our schedules as needed based on changing demand trends. In response to fluctuating demand, we are shifting the start dates for two new international routes this summer. Our new nonstop service between Newark and Johannesburg, South Africa is now scheduled to begin June 3, 2021 and new nonstop service between San Francisco and Bangalore, India will start on May 27, 2021. New service between Washington Dulles and Accra, Ghana is still planned to begin May 14 and new service between Washington Dulles and Lagos, Nigeria is also planned to begin this summer, subject to government approval. We will continue to monitor customer demand and government regulations and will make the appropriate adjustments to our schedule.
As of now, the airline’s new nonstop from Washington (IAD) to Accra, Ghana (ACC), is still expected to operate three days a week beginning on May 14, though a launch date for service to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS), also from D.C., has not yet been confirmed.
It’s also possible that the airline’s Bangalore and Johannesburg flights could get pushed back again — the South Africa travel outlook is especially unclear, and I can’t imagine United’s service will begin until the new travel ban has come to an end.
While United isn’t offering any saver award or upgrade availability for its BLR inaugural, cash fares are quite reasonable at the moment, at $480 one-way for economy, $845 for premium economy and $1,812 for business class.
On dates that do have saver availability, expect to redeem 42,500 miles for economy and 75,000 miles for business class. United is not currently offering saver awards for premium economy, which consistently requires 124,000 miles each way.
While I’m excited to fly United to Bangalore down the line, I don’t plan to join this particular inaugural flight. I did decide to book a round-trip for the new flight to Johannesburg, though, including business class on the inaugural and economy on the return (which I upgraded to Polaris using 40 PlusPoints) for $2,128.
If you’re only looking to lock in a seat on that inaugural flight, you can currently book a one-way ticket for $760 in economy. If you’re looking for premium economy or business class, you’ll want to opt for a round-trip, instead, with fares of $2,008 and $2,899, respectively.
Alternatively, you can book award seats starting at 40,000 miles for economy or 155,500 miles for business class. If you’re looking to travel later in the year, there are select dates with saver business-class availability, priced at 70,000 miles each way.
Both of these flights are scheduled to be operated by United’s retrofitted 787-9 Dreamliner, with “real” Polaris business-class seats — they’ll consistently offer the new interior, since the airline’s reconfigured planes have also undergone a software update to improve efficiency on these extra-long routes.
The airline’s updated 787-9 represents a huge step up, especially in business class, with seats that offer far more personal space and privacy than the airline’s dated 2-2-2 configuration found on a handful of Dreamliner planes.
On United’s new long-hauls, passengers will find business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, plus a Premium Plus cabin with 2-3-2 seating, which we reviewed on a similar plane in 2019, along with coach and extra-legroom Economy Plus.
Featured photo courtesy of United.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
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.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- 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.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- 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