Decoding United’s Cryptic Route Launch Pre-announcement

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***Update on 09/09/2020 @ 15:56 UTC – United has announced the seven new routes. Read all about it here***

United Airlines will be launching new routes with an announcement coming the morning of September 9th. The carrier teased the announcement with a video on Twitter and a bulletin board of over 30 clues. Simple Flying takes a look.

United Airlines
United Airlines is gearing up to announce some new routes. Photo: Getty Images

Growing from a number of routes

The first thing that is clear from the bulletin board is that several routes are coming out of major hubs. United highlighted San Francisco, Newark-Liberty, Chicago-O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Washington-Dulles, and Los Angeles in the billboard with all of these airports being clearly visible either aerially or from a front view of a terminal.

This is perhaps the least surprising part of the cryptic bulletin board. For one, United can leverage its domestic hubs as feed for long-haul international routes, which was teased in the video. Not to mention, launching new routes from hubs that already see widebody service means the airline already has the infrastructure in place in at least one airport to handle a new (or multiple new) aircraft serving a new route. As for where, now, that’s a little trickier.

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Delhi, perhaps?

Featured just behind an image of a United Airlines wing, there is an aerial picture of what looks like the Lotus Temple in New Delhi. United Airlines is the only US airline to fly to the Indian capital city out of both Newark and San Francisco. The pin on the board on the aerial image leads to San Francisco International Airport, while another in the corner leads off to an aerial of Chicago O’Hare.

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Delhi to Chicago would be easily served with a Boeing 787-9, which currently does flights from San Francisco to Delhi. There is a string connecting Chicago to the seatmap of a 257-seater Boeing 787-9, which matches United’s retrofitted jet with Polaris and Premium Plus.

787-9
It is clear there’s a 787-9 involved, but is it going to fly from Chicago to Delhi? Photo: Boeing

The only other carrier serving that route currently is Air India, which traditionally uses a Boeing 777 for the trip. United would certainly be able to tap into a lot of origin, destination and connecting demand– especially as Delta appears to be hitting pause– if not calling it quits– on its Mumbai route and American delays its Bangalore launch. Not to mention, United has a codeshare agreement with Vistara, which could provide further connections into India.

Dulles to Africa?

At the top of the billboard, there is an image with a discernable street sign called “Van Ness,” which is tied in next to a photograph with the word “767-300ER” written across it and a chart with GMT beneath it. There’s one destination that would be the confluence of all three: Ghana.

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United Airlines Newark
A 767 is going to fly somewhere– maybe to Ghana? Photo: Getty Images

Accra is in the GMT zone, the Embassy of Ghana can be found near the corner of Van Ness St and International Ct, the street sign pictured, and can be served with a Boeing 767. Delta Air Lines flies a similar-length route using a Boeing 767-300ER between Accra and New York-JFK. Or, United could leverage its hub in Newark to put competition on the New York-Ghana market.

What about the mysterious “B”?

In the video attached to the Tweet, United Airlines got a shot of a person on a phone typing in the letter “b” in their world clock. Presuming that stands for a city, there are plenty of options, such as Bangkok, Beijing, Bangalore, Barcelona, Bergen, Beirut, Buenos Aires, Bogota, or, a little broader, Bahrain, Bangladesh, etc. There are a lot of possibilities.

United Planes Getty
Growing out of a hub, United can capitalize on connections to keep its planes full. Photo: Getty Images

However, one map showed winds that were over Southern Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. A “B” city that would fit all of these would be Buenos Aires. United only has a flight to Houston out of the Argentinian city. Another flight to say Washington-Dulles or Newark would not necessarily be out of the picture– especially if United sees pent up demand and, perhaps, the demise of LATAM Argentina as an opportunity to start up a new route.

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So many clues, very few overt answers

For now, we speculate. All will be revealed, according to United, on September 9th. United did give a hint that the bulletin board gives most of the clues for the airline’s next destinations. One user on Twitter theorized a flight to Maui from Newark, which would be a 4,903-mile route and happens to be a set of numbers posted next to a lei. Hawaii is one of United’s top leisure destinations.

Another part of the board has a map of New Zealand and Australia with a big “X” through it. That could mean no new routes to either country– with New Zealand being prominently featured in the map– or else a hint showing all the various flightpaths into Auckland. San Francisco is the only city to see service out of Auckland on United, so perhaps the carrier is teasing a potential new route, or else is somewhat crudely showing the route will be cut. It is anyone’s best guess at this point.

What clues did you take away from United’s video and bulletin boards? Drop your best guesses for United’s new routes in the comment below!

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