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United unveils 26 new point-to-point routes from Midwest, East Coast

March 25, 2021
6 min read
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Editor's Note

This post has been corrected to show United's upgraded Premium Plus service to Honolulu is from Houston (IAH), and not Washington Dulles (IAD).

With business travel expected to remain significantly depressed into 2022, airlines are making aggressive plays to capture booming domestic leisure markets as a surge in demand accompanies the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

On Thursday, United announced its latest move: 26 new routes from cities in the Midwest to summer hotspots along the East Coast.

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The airline is adding flights from Cleveland (CLE), Cincinnati (CVG), Columbus (CMH), Indianapolis (IND), Milwaukee (MKE), St. Louis (STL), and Pittsburgh (PIT) to a variety of costal destinations, from Portland, Maine (PWM), to Pensacola, Florida (PNS).

United also revealed plans to resume more than 20 inactive domestic routes and formally announced its plan to fly between Orange County, California (SNA) and Honolulu — previously reported by TPG.

International routes return

The carrier will also increase service to destinations through Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, and South America. Much of this service was revealed in a schedule update earlier this month, but the ramp-up to on the routes means that United will actually have more service to these regions than it did in 2019. That's a significant development for the carrier given the fact that most long-haul international travel remains largely curtailed.

Even so, the airline plans to relaunch some major routes, including flights between Chicago (ORD) and Tokyo Haneda (HND), Amsterdam (AMS), Munich (MUC), and Tel Aviv (TLV), and between Newark and Milan (MXP) and Rome (FCO).

That leaves the airline operating 46% of its international schedule compared to May, 2019.

New and improved Hawaii service

United said it will bring Premium Plus service to some Hawaii routes. Because these seats are only available on planes that have been retrofitted to United's new cabin, it means that business class travelers can look forward to the new Polaris seats.

More: Delta unveils 39 new and expanded routes to 22 destinations in major route-map shakeup

The new cabins will be available on flights from Chicago (ORD) and Denver (DEN) to Honolulu and Maui (OGG) in May, with flights from Chicago to Kona (KOA), Houston (IAH) to Honolulu, and New York-Newark (EWR) to Maui receiving the new product in June.

Hawaii routes getting Premium Plus premium economy cabins for the summer schedule include:

  • Newark-Maui: The "high J" Boeing 767-300 starting June 3.
  • Chicago-Honolulu: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners starting May 6.
  • Chicago-Maui: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners starting May 6.
  • Chicago-Kona: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners starting June 3.
  • Houston-Honolulu: Boeing 777-200ER starting June 3. *
  • Denver-Honolulu: Boeing 777-200ER starting May 6.
  • Denver-Maui: Boeing 777-200ER starting May 6.

Domestic routes: A Pandemic-era approach

The 26 point-to-point routes are the the most notable of the announcement, serving as the latest example of an airline bypassing their hubs to try and earn customers by offering more convenient direct flights — even on marginal or seasonal routes. This has become more common during the pandemic. Before, legacy airlines like United would typically stick to a hub-and-spoke model aside from major routes

The new routes will allow United to fly nonstop between city pairs such as St. Louis-Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR); Pittsburgh-Charleston, South Carolina (CHS); Cincinnati-Portland, Maine (PWM); and Milwaukee-Savannah, Georgia (SAV).

Most of the new point-to-point routes will be operated by United's ultra-comfortable CRJ-550, a low-density aircraft that, before the pandemic, was envisioned for high-demand domestic business routes (and as a way to give United flexibility to add more regional jets without running afoul of "scope closes" in pilots' union contracts). The routes begin May 27, and will operate through Labor Day Weekend, the airline said.

More: United Airlines boosts 4 Hawaii routes, including newest flagships

The airline also plans to add flights on three new routes: Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH)-Kalispell, Montana (FCA); Washington Dulles (IAD)-Bozeman, Montana (BZN); and Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Nantucket, Massachusetts (ACK).

All three of those routes connect United hubs to the types of outdoor populations that have proven popular with travelers during the pandemic. Kalispell is near Glacier National Park while Bozeman is near Yellowstone National Park. Nantucket is a popular beach destination located off the coast of Cape Cod.

United and other U.S. airlines have seen a surge in forward bookings and travel demand in recent weeks, leading United to forecast that it will see positive cash flow this month for the first time since the pandemic began.

Here are the the new point-to-point routes:

Cleveland, OH

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC3x weekly
Hilton Head, SC3x weekly
Myrtle Beach, SC3x weekly
Pensacola, FL3x weekly
Portland, ME3x weekly

Cincinnati, OH

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC3x weekly
Hilton Head, SC3x weekly
Pensacola, FL3x weekly
Portland, ME3x weekly

Columbus, OH

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC4x weekly
Hilton Head, SC3x weekly
Portland, ME4x weekly

Indianapolis, IN

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC3x weekly
Hilton Head, SC4x weekly
Portland, ME4x weekly

Milwaukee, WI

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC2x weekly
Myrtle Beach, SC2x weekly
Pensacola, FL2x weekly
Portland, ME2x weekly
Savannah, GA2x weekly

St. Louis, MO

DestinationFrequency
Hilton Head, SC3x weekly
Myrtle Beach, SC3x weekly

Pittsburgh, PA

DestinationFrequency
Charleston, SC3x weekly
Hilton Head, SC3x weekly
Pensacola, FL3x weekly
Portland, ME3x weekly

* Editor's note: This post has been corrected to show United's upgraded Premium Plus service to Honolulu is from Houston (IAH), and not Washington Dulles (IAD).

Featured image by Wayne Slezak
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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