United is adding 3 brand-new transcon routes to Florida
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United’s cross-country route map is growing.
Over the weekend, the Chicago-based carrier filed three new transcon routes, boosting its presence in both California and Florida.
Two of the new routes are from Los Angeles (LAX). United will launch daily year-round flights to Tampa (TPA) starting on Oct. 31, aboard a 150-seat Airbus A320, with 12 first-class recliners and 138 coach seats.
The second LAX route, to Fort Myers (RSW), will run seasonally from Dec. 16 through May 5, 2022. This daily flight will be operated by a 166-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, outfitted with 16 first-class recliners and 150 coach seats.
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Fort Myers also will get a second new United transcon route, with a daily seasonal flight to San Francisco (SFO) running during the same timeframe as the new LAX flight.
Fares to Tampa start at $99, while the Fort Myers flights begin at $145. There are a handful of dates with saver award availability in coach starting at 11,100 MileagePlus miles, but business-class availability is far more limited.
Along with the new routes, United also is increasing the frequency of flights between Tampa and SFO. Beginning on Dec. 16, the carrier will add a second daily service in each direction.
While confirming the new routes, a United spokesperson offered a statement that explains the Florida transcon strategy.
As California’s global airline, United looks forward to offering customers on the west coast more direct service to Florida destinations including Tampa and Fort Myers beginning this fall and winter. Florida continues to be a popular destination for our customers, a trend we expect to continue into the winter months.
As United says, these routes are expected to capture the leisure demand during Florida’s peak tourism season. Though United will enjoy a monopoly on the Fort Myers to SFO route, the others will face fierce competition from other U.S. airlines.
The airline will go head-to-head with Alaska’s new Fort Myers to Los Angeles route that first launched in November 2020. Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium show that nearly 87 travelers flew between the two cities on average each day in 2019, so United will likely need to rely on its connecting network in Los Angeles to make the new Fort Myers flight work.
As for United’s new Tampa route, the carrier will face off against American, Alaska and Delta for the 2,158-mile transcon to Los Angeles.
While there’s seemingly been endless demand for flights to Florida during the pandemic — in April 2021, domestic flights to Florida were down just 6% compared to the same month in 2019, per Cirium — it remains to be seen if that trend will continue later this year. With increasing vaccinations and rapidly declining COVID-19 case counts, it’s possible that business travel could begin to slowly picking up toward the end of the summer. Should that happen, it could crowd out some of the predicted leisure demand if airlines choose to instead return their focus to schedules catering to higher-fare corporate travelers.
Of course, time will tell how United’s new routes fare, but the carrier isn’t alone in boosting Florida flights.
Last week, American Airlines announced three new routes to Tampa, including flights from Nashville (BNA), Los Angeles (LAX) and Raleigh-Durham (RDU). Additionally, Breeze Airways, America’s newest start-up airline, launched in late May with 39 routes, ten of which are from the carrier’s Tampa base.
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