Flip-flop: United re-adds service on LAX’s 2nd-shortest route
United Airlines is reinstating one of its shortest routes.
The Chicago-based carrier filed plans over the weekend to continue serving the 109-mile shuttle between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Diego International Airport (SAN), as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.
United will commence twice-daily operations between the two airports on Oct. 30. (Until then, the airline is currently flying the route on a once-daily basis.)
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Service between LA and San Diego has operated consistently for at least the past 40 years, so when United revealed plans in early July to drop the route effective Oct. 30, some locals were disappointed.
Travelers use this short route to connect to the airline's hub at LAX, giving flyers plenty of easy, one-stop connectivity to hundreds of destinations across the country and around the world. (At just 89 miles, the shortest route from LAX is to Santa Barbara.)
Without the LA flight, San Diego-based flyers would need to connect in either San Francisco, Houston or Denver for transpacific flights. Or, they would have to fly to hubs farther east to get to cities across the Atlantic.
Of course, these travelers could always drive to LAX, but that's subject to traffic, parking fees and other possible disruptions. Alternatively, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train connects the two cities with plenty of daily round trips.
United didn't share too many details about the flip-flop, citing a review of internal data as the reason for re-adding the service.
"After re-reviewing internal data, United is no longer planning on suspending service between LA and San Diego. And on Oct. 30, we plan to add a second daily flight to help customers travel to/from and make connections from San Diego," spokesperson Maddie King told TPG in a statement.
United declined to share further details about its change of heart.
United Express partner Skywest will continue to operate the route using a mix of 70- and 76-seat Embraer 175 regional aircraft, all of which feature a 12-seat first-class cabin.
Interestingly, at the outset of the pandemic, American Airlines scrapped its flights between LA and San Diego, leaving United and Delta Air Lines as the sole two carriers operating in the market, Cirium schedules show.
When United announced its intention to stop serving the route, it was poised to leave Delta with a monopoly in the market. That likely would've given the Atlanta-based carrier a big leg up with the local market.
Shorter total travel times are usually displayed higher in online travel searches, and those itineraries that Delta offered via its LAX hub were likely getting more search volume than United's offerings via San Francisco or Houston.
We don't know the exact data that was used to sway United's decision. However, the about-face comes just a few weeks after an organizational realignment in the top brass of the carrier's network planning team.
Ankit Gupta, who formerly led the domestic network, now oversees flight operations, while Patrick Quayle, who was in charge of the international network, now oversees global network planning.
Interestingly, when United announced it was cutting the route, Gupta was in charge of the domestic network, while the decision to re-add the route now falls under Quayle.
Either way, the big winners are those based in San Diego, who'll once again be able to connect to United's hub at LAX with a short, 55-minute flight.