United Is Gearing Up For A Busy Holiday Travel Season

United Airlines is responding to positive travel demand over the Thanksgiving holiday period, with over 1,400 domestic flights being added to the airline’s schedule. The relatively late addition of these flights to the schedule is in response to higher-than-normal bookings fewer than 30 days out from departure.

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United Airlines is growing its Thanksgiving schedule amid increasing demand closer to departure. Photo: Getty Images

Adding new flights for Thanksgiving

United Airlines is adding more than 1,400 domestic flights during the week of Thanksgiving amid higher booking closer to departure. United announced this just a few days after JetBlue made a similar announcement. This year, United Airlines expects about 50% of its customers to book travel less than a month out from departure. This compares to around 40% of Thanksgiving travelers who booked less than 30 days out.

Ankit Gupta, United’s Vice President of Network Planning and Scheduling, stated the following in a press release:

“We know that for many customers, this holiday season may be their first time back on a plane since the start of the pandemic, and we’re committed to helping provide flexibility and a safer, clean, travel experience. While this holiday travel season looks quite different than recent years, we’re continuing to follow the same playbook we have all year long – watching the data and adding more flights, adjusting schedules and leveraging larger aircraft to give customers more ways to reunite with family or reach their destinations.”

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Most of the additional flights are domestic. Photo: Getty Images

December is looking like a great month too

United Airlines is seeing great trends in December. The carrier anticipates a similar trend of travelers booking holiday vacations closer to departure for those looking for a winter ski or warm-weather getaways in the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Some popular destinations include Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, Montana, Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

Overall, the airline expects to fly about 48% of its overall schedule in December compared to 2019. This is more than November, and the airline has plans to add more than 140 daily flights and is increasing capacity on over 350 routes.

In the US, United expects to fly 52% of its domestic schedule. This is a three-point increase compared to November. However, all of this growth is not equal. On peak travel days, United is adding more flights out of Chicago, Denver, Houston, and Washington-Dulles– the airline’s largest and most profitable hubs.

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Not all hubs are created equal, with Newark being one such hub that is not getting many additional flights in December. Photo: Getty Images

United is expecting to operate more than 200 additional departures on peak days during the holiday period. Hawaii is turning out to be a winner in December. United is reintroducing flights between Los Angeles and Hilo, Chicago and Maui, and Newark, and Honolulu for the holiday period. From December 17th, United is also increasing flights on 13 Hawaii routes, including Maui, Honolulu, Kona, and Lihue.

Florida is also getting a fair bit of new flights. Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa, Miami, and Palm beach are getting plenty of additional flights. This also includes a big point-to-point expansion on routes to Florida from cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Milwaukee, and others.

In addition, ski destinations in Colorado are getting a lot of love. Aspen, Jackson Hole, Steamboat Springs, and Vail are getting over 580 weekly roundtrips on United from mid-December onwards.

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United knows that passengers want to either relax on the beach or hit the slopes, so it is adding a bunch of flights to those destinations. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

What about international flights?

United is planning on flying only about 43% of its international schedule compared to December 2019. This is a four-point increase compared to November 2020, but not all of these are far-flung international long-haul routes. Increasing demand for beach destinations means United is adding operations to Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

United will be operating over 40 additional daily roundtrip flights on international routes compared to November. This includes 36 new and returning routes, including eight new destinations in Latin America. Another 84 additional routes to 33 destinations in Latin America, including Liberia, Cancun, Aruba, Nassau, and Punta Cana, are getting increased services.

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United Airlines is not yet flying a robust long-haul network with paying customers, but it will be launching new flights to India in December. Photo: Getty Images

In the long-haul market, United is growing services to India. This includes a new nonstop service between Chicago and New Delhi starting on December 10th. Meanwhile, San Francisco to New Delhi will increase to daily operations. Other long-haul growth includes increased services between San Francisco and Taipei, Los Angeles and Sydney, and Newark to Brussels.

Confidence is the name of the game at United

United’s team has a lot of confidence that they have the right strategy to emerge from the crisis profitable and maintain a robust route network. In the airline’s third-quarter earnings call, it was clear that management was optimistic about the future. These flights are a testament to that.

United is going big and bold, but there is no clear indication that this strategy will work out. However, it appears that United is getting as many of its people and planes to work, hopeful that it will translate to increased revenue and profitability. This also includes a look at returning to New York-JFK with transcontinental operations.

Are you glad to see United adding all these new flights? Let us know in the comments!