2019: The Year United Airlines Expanded Into New Markets

A new decade is around the corner and many airlines will be eyeing up further opportunities in the new year. However, United is already one step ahead of the others following a series of expansions into new markets this year.

United 767
United has had a massively successful 2019 when it comes to expansions. Photo: United Airlines

Busy year

The Chicago-based carrier has launched several new routes across the United States and the globe in a bid to capitalize on growing markets. To support these fresh services, it has also revamped large proportions of its fleet with suitable aircraft.

One of these initiatives that United implemented is the reconfiguration of its United Kingdom-bound Boeing 767s. These jets were overhauled to match the demand set by a new wave of business travelers.

The new configuration focuses heavily on premium services with 46 Polaris seats. This gives the airline more business class seats between Heathrow and the New York area than any other US firm. These seats span across half of the aircraft, not including an additional 22 Premium Plus seats situated behind them.

United Polaris
The interior of United’s reconfigured 767s. Photo: United Airlines

Business evolution

Simple Flying tried and tested out one of the reconfigured 767s and we can understand why the airline has gone for this approach. United’s managing director of sales for the UK and Ireland, Bob Schumacher summarized the intent of his company.

“We have watched the evolution of the business traveler. They want to travel somewhat better than perhaps they do on their leisure travel,” Schumacher told Simple Flying.

“There’s a good proportion of SMEs finding their feet, wanting their employees to travel comfortable and be well served. We need to have a cabin such as this.”

Bon Schumacher
Bob Schumacher shared that United is able to fulfill the need from new types of passengers with its revamped aircraft. Photo: United Airlines

Clear routes

According to FSB, the total business population within the UK increased by 200,000 (3.5 percent). Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2019 the business population grew by 2.4 million (+69 percent).

With United’s management recognizing the growth in these segments, it decided to alter some of its routes in support. Services such as London to Denver are now year-round rather than seasonal. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to route expansion.

Earlier this month, it announced that it will offer the only daily flight by any US-based airline between San Francisco and Dublin. These two regions hold important technological hubs on each side of the Atlantic Ocean and United is prepared to connect them.

United 777
United has been cleverly selecting which routes to expand on. Photo: United Airlines

Furthermore, the carrier inaugurated a direct flight to Cape Town, which currently makes it the only North American operator to do so. According to The World Bank, South Africa’s gross domestic product has grown by £60bn. Additionally, several European and North American businesses have been outsourcing their operations to the South African legislative capital. Therefore, United has managed to fill quite a demanding gap here.

All bases covered

Business passengers closer to home have also been paid attention to. The firm introduced its Bombardier CRJ-550 to help connect smaller towns within the US. The 50-seat plane offers a premium cabin experience on regional operations.

Allentown, Bentonville, Cedar Rapids, Madison, Richmond, Madison Columbus, and Des Moines are some of the destinations that are currently served from Chicago.

United CRJ-550
The CRJ-550 helps business travelers in underserved areas fly with greater comfort. Photo: United Airlines

While tending to these developing business segments, United has not neglected its tourist operations. In August, it announced new flights to Curacao and two new European routes to Nice, and Palermo. These are just some examples of a well-rounded offering.

Altogether, United has been able to not only identify new markets but has also done a great job of fulfilling the demand. CEO Oscar Munoz has also been praised for the way he has responded to the 737 MAX crisis ahead of the plane’s eventual reintroduction.

2020 is set to be an even stronger year for the airline since it has already got its foot in the door in areas that are set to grow further in the next decade.

What are your thoughts on United’s developments within the last year? Let us know what you think in the comment section.