Today, United Airlines announced its most extensive domestic schedule since COVID-19 gripped the US in March 2020. The airline is relying on the ongoing increase in leisure travel boosted by the upcoming holidays to add flights to popular vacation destinations.
Connecting winter sunshine
With the Thanksgiving holiday in just over a month and Christmas soon after, United is preparing for the current demand increase to become a surge over the next few months. With that in mind, the airline is drastically upping its domestic network and schedule. The airline says searches for flights on its app are currently 16% above the number of searches made in the same period in 2019.
The airline’s primary focus is connecting the Midwest to some holiday sun in Las Vegas for the next few months. From December, passengers will have the option of direct flights to Las Vegas from Cleveland. Customers in Cleveland will also have the opportunity to fly directly to Phoenix.
United also recently announced a vast expansion of point-to-point routes in Florida. The airline is focusing on increasing its presence in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, and Tampa. Again, the carrier is concentrating on connecting Midwest cities such as Indianapolis and Milwaukee to some Florida sunshine for the holidays. The airline will operate 195 daily flights to 12 destinations in Florida.
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Winter skiing destinations
United is also hoping to capture passengers looking to enjoy some colder weather over the holidays. The airline is also increasing its network to include 66 daily flights to popular skiing destinations. Destinations include Aspen/Snowmass, Mammoth, Bozeman/Big Sky, Eagle/Vail, Kalispell, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Jackson Hole, Montrose/ Telluride, Reno/Tahoe, Sun Valley. One notable new route will connect Orange County directly to Aspen.
Speaking about the new route Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling at United, said,
“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow. We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we’re thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together.”
A firm hold on the leisure market
The recent increase in demand for leisure destinations allows United to get a grip in markets where previously, it fell behind other carriers. Particularly in Florida, United is growing its presence to appeal to beach-goers. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reassess and reassign its aircraft to target markets it previously struggled to meet demand.
The recent announcements are United’s most significant increase in its domestic schedule since before the pandemic. With more than 3,500 daily flights planned for December, the airline will be operating at 91% of its 2019 domestic capacity. Although nearly at full capacity again, the airline’s priorities and focus on capturing a more significant share of the leisure market means it’ll be interesting watching the airline over the coming months into 2022.
What do you think of United’s focus on leisure travel? Is it short-term to aid recovery, or do you expect to see the airline continue to focus on this market for the coming years? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.