United Airlines has announced that it will be bulking up its London-Heathrow network, including finally launching its previously announced Boston to London service. By spring 2022, United will fly 22 daily operations from Heathrow to the United States. Justifying the expansion, United stated that London was its “most booked international destination” for its business customers, and it expects strong business demand to continue.
United adds a new flight from London
Among the five new flights that United is announcing, only one is a new route. Starting in March 2022, United will offer daily nonstop service from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to London Heathrow (LHR). The flight will run on United’s Polaris-heavy Boeing 767-300ER, featuring 46 Polaris business class seats, 22 Premium Plus (premium economy seats), 43 extra-legroom economy seats, and 56 standard economy seats.
United previously announced their intention to serve Boston to London in February of this year, with the following schedule (all times are local):
- Flights depart Boston at 22:00, arriving the following day in London at 09:35
- The return flight departs London at 17:00 and arrives in Boston at 19:30
The plan always was to use this heavily premium aircraft. On the latest route expansion, Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, stated the following:
“For nearly 30 years, United has provided a critical link between the U.S. and London, maintaining service throughout the pandemic and strategically growing our schedule to keep our customers in these key global business centres connected. London is an integral part of United’s network and we remain confident demand will continue to grow, particularly as international business travel returns in 2022.”
More daily flights
Several other routes will be getting expanded frequencies from United Airlines. Currently, the airline only offers seven daily flights between the US and London. By December, that will grow to 10 daily flights with boosts to Newark and Chicago. However, by the spring, United will be adding frequencies on several other routes.
Previously announced, United will be resuming flights from Denver International Airport (DEN) to LHR. It will also add a second daily flight operated by a Boeing 787-9. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) will get a sixth and seventh daily flight, both operated by the premium 767-300ER and growing to hourly service in the evening.
From the West Coast, United Airlines will add a third daily flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and resume daily service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), both using a Boeing 787-9.
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A transatlantic business focus
United Airlines has been heavily focused on restoring its international route network, but it has devoted most of its attention to the transatlantic market. Europe reopened this summer, but the recovery is ongoing given that large corporate customers have resumed travel a little slower than borders have reopened.
Earlier this month, United announced a whopping five new markets amid a ten-route transatlantic expansion. However, United continues to see positive momentum in the business travel segment, which is why it is bulking up its frequencies to London.
London is one of the most important business capitals in Europe. Others, such as Zurich and Frankfurt, are also Star Alliance partner hubs. In addition to United’s robust services on those routes, the airline’s partners also offer flights to fill out those schedules. United does not have a partner in London, unlike both Delta and American. So, it has relied on itself to bulk up frequencies to fly its customers – especially business customers – to and from the city.
Boston to London is a heavily contested route. British Airways, American Airlines, and Delta all fly the route. Virgin Atlantic is also expected to resume flying, and British Airways has planned up to three daily flights between the two cities. Next year, JetBlue will also launch service to London from Boston.
There are a few different aspects to United’s service launch from Boston to Heathrow. The first is that it is a major business market that the airline does not fly, but it is also a market where a connecting itinerary would require a passenger to backtrack, making it unappealing to local travelers with no dearth of choices.
The second consideration is that United is jumping on the route ahead of JetBlue’s planned entrance. Since 2020, JetBlue has been steadily growing in Newark, and it is looking at solidifying that presence even further in the fight for the slots now available at the airport. Newark is one of United’s key hubs and international gateways, as is Boston to JetBlue.
The heavy premium capacity does carry some risk for United on this route. However, it has shown that these aircraft perform quite well across the Atlantic in key business markets, so it believes it will be just fine. But, when well-loved JetBlue’s transatlantic experience launches next year, it will put even more pressure on all airlines flying the route – United included. Nevertheless, come spring 2022, United will have an extensive portfolio of routes to London from the US.