United Airlines Will Resume Additional International Flights In May

United Airlines is hopeful that it will be able to resume some long-haul direct services in less than a month’s time. The airline has opened up booking for three transatlantic flights to Europe and two additional nonstop flights to South America. This is quite a development considering that at the end of March, the airline temporarily suspended all long-haul international flights.

United Airlines back in service
United Airlines is looking to get some of its international direct flights back on track. Photo: Getty Images

United will resume some international flights in May

It wasn’t all that long ago that we reported that United Airlines was temporarily suspending its long-haul international routes. The motive had been to adhere to developments in government regulations that made travel restrictions even tighter.

At the end of March, it said in a statement:

“…we are closely monitoring demand as well as changes in state and local curfews and government restrictions across the U.S. and will adjust its schedule accordingly throughout the month.”

At that time, United closed the transatlantic flights that were still operating. This includeed the service between Cape Town in South Africa and Newark in the U.S. In addition, the American carrier made its final flight to Central and South America on 24th March. Its final international long-haul journey over the Pacific was on 25th March.

However, fast forward a few seemingly long weeks and United is already getting itchy feet. It wants its services up and running, but its approach is a cautious one. Nevertheless, United Airlines is gently phasing in routes that are currently suspended. The airline hopes to fly over the Atlantic once again at the beginning of May and will also operate services to two South American cities.

Where will United be flying to?

At present, United is looking to reinstate three European routes. On the 4th May, United Airlines will begin to fly between its hub Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and London Heathrow (LHR) again. The route is listed on the United website as a red-eye flown by Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, flight number UA931.

Dreamliner United
A 787 Dreamliner will begin flying passengers between the US and the UK. Photo: Patrick Feller via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, the air carrier will also restart flights between Newark (EWR) and Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) on the same day. The 4th of May will also see the return of flights to Frankfurt (FRA) from Washington (IAD). All of the above services will operate daily.

However, United Airlines also sees the benefit of restarting routes to South America. On 5th May, a daily flight will depart Houston (IAH) for Bogota (BOG) in Colombia. On the same day, United will fly to Buenos Aires (EZE) from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. This service will only operate three times per week. These services complement existing widebody routes to destinations including Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Sao Paulo.

Many airlines have cut services throughout April but it was widely accepted that these schedules would change. At this point in time, there is still no concrete evidence as to whether airlines will be able to operate international flights in as little as a month’s time. However, it is possible.

Is this strategy optimistic or naive?

We contacted United Airlines to ascertain whether these long-haul flights would change subject to developments in COVID-19. It told us:

“While COVID-19 continues to severely impact international travel, we are adding back-in four additional routes to create more connectivity between our hubs and key business markets in Europe and South America where we’re seeing some passenger demand.”

We can presuppose that if the situation does not improve, the airline will be forced to shift back the start dates for these services.

United tails parked
Is it too soon to be offering international long-haul flights considering the current state of the industry. Photo: Getty Images

Another question is: how popular will these services be? With the potential for such limited travel at the start of May, it’s difficult to think that these flights will be packed full of passengers. That said, those who are keen to move will likely take advantage of the services that United is offering.

Whether or not this schedule is premature or not, no one can deny that United Airlines has the desire to get its fleet and passengers back in the air. It’s what most airlines are striving for and they are simply playing a waiting game to get back to normal service.

Do you think it’s too early for United to restart these long-haul services? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.