United Airlines is trimming its routes this northern hemisphere winter. A report by Edward Russell in The Points Guy has United axing flights between Washington Dulles and Chattanooga, Newark and Dayton, and Newark and Ottawa. According to United Airlines, the cancellations are due to low customer demand on the routes.
United chops Chattanooga
According to the United Airlines booking engine, two return flights per day are operating between Dulles and Chattanooga in Tennessee. The outbound flights are UA4810 and UA4857. The return flights to Dulles are UA3881 and UA3851. These flights will be discontinued from December 3rd, 2019. This route had only been operating for 11 months when United shifted the flights from Newark to Dulles.
At the time, Ankit Gupta of United Airlines said;
“We determined that by shifting certain regional flights from Newark to Dulles, our customers will have more schedule flexibility and better options for connections on regional routes.”
United will remain flying to Chattanooga from Chicago O’Hare.
Newark-Dayton to be culled
United Airlines currently operates a single daily direct service between Newark and Dayton, Ohio. ExpressJet operating on behalf of United sends an Embraer RJ145 to Dayton operating as UA3996 and returning as UA4431. United is cancelling this service on January 4th, 2020.
But, unlike Chattanooga’s sole alternative United flight to Chicago, Dayton has a better range of alternative United routes. United’s services out of Dayton to Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Houston, and Washington Dulles appear to be unaffected.
And Newark-Ottawa axed
The third route United Airlines is axing the Newark-Ottawa route. There are three return services a day. UA4096, 4351, and 4459 head up to Canada, and UA4032, 4137, and 4312 are the return flights. This route will be cancelled effective March 4th, 2020.
Why the routes were ‘trimmed’
As Edward Russell notes, cancelling these three North American routes is not so much about seasonal variations, rather a willingness to axe routes that are underperforming. Both routes from Newark were inherited from the Continental Airlines merger in 2010. The Dulles-Chattanooga route was part of a more recent strategy to shift feeder flights from its Newark hub to its Dulles hub.
The North American cancellations illustrate a strategy devoid of sentimentality by United Airlines – neither long term legacy routes or short term experimental routes are safe if underperforming.
United set off on a riskier growth strategy last year
According to Live and Let’s Fly, United’s strategy of linking small cities like Chattanooga to new hubs was part of a “higher risk strategy” to maintain domestic growth after a period of exploiting low hanging fruit.
Live and Lets Fly pointed out that United wasn’t maximising feeder traffic into key hubs in the way competitors American Airlines and Delta Air Lines did. It cites the example of United having 600 flights daily to and from its key hub at O’Hare. In comparison, Delta Airlines ran 1,000 flights per day in and out of its key Atlanta hub and American operated 900 flights daily in and out of Dallas Fort Worth.
It made the point that United was missing out on the opportunity to maximise small city feeder traffic through its big hubs. But United was seeking to redress this. Feeding traffic somewhere like Chattanooga into its Dulles hub was an example of this. Unfortunately, in this case, it was one route that just didn’t work.
Simple Flying reached out to United Airlines for a comment but received no response prior to publication.