United shuffles schedule, suspends long-haul Hawaii route and adds Florida connections
Airlines have been busy adjusting their route maps throughout the pandemic.
One of the latest moves comes from United, which recently filed a major schedule change for February and beyond.
To start, the Chicago-based carrier is temporarily suspending one of its flagship Hawaii routes from Newark (EWR) to Honolulu (HNL).
According to Cirium schedules and confirmed by the carrier, United is dropping this route for the entire month of February. (Newark to HNL has been suspended since the end of the festive season on Jan. 4.) Additionally, the ten-month suspension of Washington/Dulles (IAD) to HNL flights will continue through February 2021.
Current plans indicate a restart in March, but — as with everything during the pandemic — plans could change. United says that "we look forward to resuming EWR, IAD flights as demand for travel to Hawaii continues to recover."
Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airline-specific news!
These long-haul domestic flights have been quite popular with Northeast-based flyers looking to visit Hawaii as conveniently as possible. Unsurprisingly, finding award or upgrade space on two of United's most premier Hawaii flights has long been notoriously difficult.
The suspensions of those routes come despite the fact that Hawaii remains open to tourists without a quarantine upon presentation of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure time of the final leg to Hawaii.
Instead of flying directly from the East Coast, United will offer flyers a myriad of one-stop connecting itineraries through cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco to Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Cirium schedules show that the carrier plans to fly 1,046 Hawaii flights in February 2021, down from nearly 1,800 one year prior.
United's Hawaii shuffle comes as other carriers are doing the same.
American Airlines will launch a new long-haul Hawaii route come May 6 from Charlotte (CLT) to Honolulu (HNL), representing the first time the carrier has flown the route since 2010 when it last flew — unsuccessfully — with the US Airways livery.
Hawaiian Airlines is also starting a new long-haul domestic route on March 11, when it launches non-stop Honolulu (HNL) to Orlando (MCO) service. Hawaiian will also launch service to Austin and Ontario, California, as well.
For its part, United will add two new Hawaii nonstops starting in June 2021: the first between Chicago (ORD) and Kona (KOA) and the second between Newark (EWR) and Kahului (OGG).
More: Here’s everything visitors to Hawaii need to know
While United is suspending some Hawaii flying, it’s boosting flights to another warm-weather destination — Florida.
The carrier confirmed that it's adding two new routes to the Sunshine State, one from Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Panama City (ECP) and another from Houston (IAH) to Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ).
The 758-mile Panama City service begins on March 4. The daily flight is slated to be operated by United Express partner CommutAir on a 50-seat Embraer 145 regional jet.
United Express partner Mesa Airlines will fly the 796-mile Sarasota route using a 70-seat Embraer 175 regional jet. Daily service is slated to begin on Feb. 11.
These join two other new "sun-and-fun" routes to Florida — Washington/Dulles (IAD) to Pensacola (PNS) and Houston (IAH) to Key West (EYW) — which were added to the schedule in recent weeks.
More: Airlines are flying some unexpected routes during the pandemic. Will they stick around?
Boosting Florida flights has been a popular strategy among U.S. carriers during the pandemic.
For United, the carrier launched a new nonstop from Washington/Dulles to Key West in November, part of an addition that included more than 17 new point-to-point flights to the state from cities like Cleveland (CLE) and Boston (BOS).
Other carriers, including American and JetBlue, have also boosted Florida flights. Fort Worth-based American will add service to Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) beginning on April 2. JetBlue is doubling down on South Florida, too, adding Miami and Key West to its route map on Feb. 11.
All in all, United dropped over 20,000 flights in this week's schedule update. The carrier is planning to fly roughly 49% fewer flights in February 2021 compared to February 2019, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by the carrier. This represents a two-point increase compared to January 2021.
The carrier cites "the recent spike in COVID-19 cases" which has caused a "slight reduction in bookings." For now, February's domestic and international capacity will be down 45% and 57% compared to two years prior, respectively.
This post has been updated to reflect United's ten-month suspension of IAD-HNL and the two new June 2021 nonstop flights to Hawaii.