United Airlines To Make A Major International Route Announcement Later Today

United have issued a media advisory that something game changing is afoot. In an announcement yesterday, they said that something ‘historic’ was about to happen… something that we’ll be finding out all about in just a few short hours.

united Airlines
We’re eagerly awaiting an ‘historic’ announcement

The media advisory read:

“United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will host a media conference call tomorrow to discuss an historic package of new and expanded international routes and talk about how they are a capstone to a breakthrough year for United.”

Sounds exciting, huh?

While we absolutely don’t know anything concrete regarding what’s going to be said, we can pick up some clues from the advisory note.

For a start, they talk of a ‘package of new and expanded routes’. That means there’s more than one new route due to be announced. They also say it’s a ‘capstone’ to a breakthrough year, but we know a fair bit about that already.

united premium plus
United’s Premium Plus cabin

As well as launching their premium economy seats for sale (finally) and moving into Paine Field, they have announced the start of six new European destinations to be served by their new 787-10s.

Other new routes have already been announced and new aircraft are being looked at, but this sounds like it’s going to be the proverbial icing on the cake.

What’s it going to be?

We already know that United are more willing to try ultra long haul than many of their US counterparts, so we don’t think this is going to involve domestic routes at all. They’ve alluded to something ‘historic’, which would suggest it’s not something being done already by them, or perhaps by anyone else.

United ULH
United often lead the way with ultra long haul operations

Nothing is certain one way or the other, but as you can imagine, the industry is abuzz with speculation and rumour. Well, we’ve got a few predictions of our own up our sleeves that we wanted to share with you today:

Chicago (ORD) – Tel Aviv (TLV)

Tel Aviv has become something of a focus city for United over the past few years. Currently flying direct from Newark and San Francisco, it would be good to see direct flights to Israel’s cosmopolitan city would be welcomed.

However, in terms of something ‘historic’, we don’t think this is big enough.

An Indian offering

United currently offer two direct routes between the US and India, running from Newark (EWR) to Delhi and Mumbai. It would be fantastic to see this added to. Houston (IAH) to Delhi (DEL) or Mumbai (BOM) would be amazing, but again, we’re not sure this is ground-breaking enough to be called ‘historic’.

Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB)

JNB is a hub for South African Airways, a Star Alliance member. This route could have some excellent code sharing possibilities for both the SA side and the Newark side. However, SAA already fly to JFK from Johannesburg, which could be negatively impacted if UA were to start this route. Perhaps they would cancel their JFK route, instead code sharing via United to Newark.

A route to Jo’Berg would be United’s second attempt to break into the African market

This would be United’s second attempt at accessing the African continent, after they cancelled their Houston to Lagos, Nigeria route in 2016. For them, this absolutely would be something ‘historic’.

San Francisco (SFO) – Brussels (BRU)

Right now, Brussels lacks a good connection to the West Coast. Being a politically important location for the European Union (and more so after Brexit happens), it is also a major Star Alliance connecting point.

Not entirely historic but interesting, nonetheless.

Something involving Pacific hubs

United have hubs on both Honolulu and Guam, which could be the basis for a new route expansion. Typically, it’s not at all easy to get to Pacific islands from Europe, so laying on an LHR-HNL route, for example, could open up these islands to a new geographic of tourists. No airlines currently fly to Guam from the UK either.

Could they be looking to attract Europeans to their Pacific hubs?

From the US, Guam flights typically have at least one stop. Laying on a direct route from either SFO or LAX could prove profitable for United.

Los Angeles (LAX) to Perth (PER)

It’s been mooted in the past that Qantas plan to start a nonstop Perth to North America service soon, but perhaps United want to gazump them on that announcement. After all, Qantas are pretty much there with their Australia to UK direct flights, so why shouldn’t United go one better?

LAX to Perth would be an epic route, but which aircraft could make it?

Both the Boeing 777X and the A350ULR are capable of such distances, but United owns neither. At 8,098 nm, the A350-900 could just about go the distance; it’s range is published as 8,099.4 nm, so you wouldn’t have any room for error.

United have taken the lead on ultra long haul in the past, stepping on the toes of fellow Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines when they launched their San Francisco to Singapore direct route in June 2016. They already run a Houston to Sydney direct flight, using a 787-9 Dreamliner, so it would be interesting to see if they’re planning another US to AU direct flight.

It’s all speculation

Of course, all of this is just speculation at this stage, and we won’t know for sure what’s going on at United until the announcement takes place.

We will, of course, keep you updated as soon as we hear anything. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Where do you think United are heading in 2019?