United’s Washington Dulles hub takes a big – but temporary – hit on international flying

Mar 9, 2021

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Despite an accelerated vaccine rollout, international flying is on a (very) slow path to recovery.

United Airlines filed its preliminary April 2021 schedule over the weekend, which includes a 49% reduction in networkwide flights compared to pre-pandemic highs two years ago.

As part of the update, the carrier also is holding off on much of its long-haul route network from its Washington Dulles (IAD) hub — a sign that international travel isn’t bouncing back any time soon.

Specifically, the airline has suspended flights to the following destinations at least through the end of October.

  • Amsterdam (AMS)
  • Beijing (PEK)
  • Dublin (DUB)
  • Edinburgh (EDI)
  • Geneva (GVA)
  • Lisbon (LIS)
  • Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • Tokyo/Haneda (HND)

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Both the Edinburgh and Lisbon routes are seasonal from Dulles, so those flights aren’t on the docket to restart until 2022. The six remaining services are typically operated year-round, and the current plan is to resume flying them on Oct. 30.

United isn’t ending the routes completely; rather, it’s just waiting for demand to improve before resuming them. In a statement, the carrier said:

United continues to nimbly reshape and rebuild its domestic and international schedules by carefully matching capacity with customer demand. Capacity for the month of April is similar to March of 2021. Recovery will not follow a linear path, however the development and efficacy of vaccines are an encouraging line of sight to the other side of the pandemic. While it will take time for the vaccine to be widely distributed, United’s confidence is even stronger in the recovery and the trajectory of the rebound in 2021 and beyond.

As for other long-haul flights from Dulles, United still plans to fly to eight international destinations, six of which are in Europe, one in Africa and another in South America. You’ll find the full list below.

Of United’s seven domestic hubs, Dulles is seeing the largest reduction in international routes. United is trimming long-haul summer service from other major gateways, including Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Newark (EWR), but none are as sweeping as the IAD cuts.

Cirium schedules show that United is pulling ORD to Beijing (PEK), Edinburgh (EDI), Shanghai (PVG) and Zurich (ZRH), as well as Newark to Berlin (BER), Geneva (GVA) and Glasgow (GLA) at least through the end of October.

United will serve all the aforementioned destinations during the summer from at least one hub, except for Geneva, which won’t resume until late October.

Related: Where you can go if you’re vaccinated

United’s move to cut much of its long-haul network this summer implies that the carrier doesn’t see a dramatic improvement in demand for international travel, despite President Biden’s promise that every American adult will have the option to be vaccinated by the end of May.

Vaccine passports have been all the rage recently, but until herd immunity is achieved and other logistical challenges are ironed out, most international jaunts are likely out of the cards. Some destinations, like Thailand, have pledged to reopen to vaccinated travelers.

For now, however, that leaves U.S. carriers — including United — to focus mostly on capturing an increased demand for domestic trips.

For one, United just upgraded its upcoming Newark (EWR) to Kahului/Maui (OGG) route to the swanky “high-J” Boeing 767-300, with a whopping 46 Polaris pods and a separate Premium Plus cabin. In total, the carrier plans 21 Hawaii routes this summer, with its newest one from Orange County (SNA) to Honolulu (HNL) launching on May 6.

Related: United puts its swankiest jet on new flagship Hawaii route

Additionally, the carrier has been busy announcing new domestic service to capitalize on pandemic-weary leisure travelers looking for an outdoor-friendly escape. This includes boosting service from Denver (DEN) to four Florida destinations, as well as launching a new one-stop bus service to two Colorado cities.

Per the latest Cirium schedules, United will fly from Washington Dulles to the following international destinations between April and October.

  • Accra, Ghana (ACC)
  • Brussels (BRU)
  • Paris (CDG)
  • Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Sao Paulo (GRU)
  • London Heathrow (LHR)
  • Munich (MUC)
  • Zurich (ZRH)

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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