The ‘new’ United; leading airports and routes revealed

Even more United

United’s greater internationalism: Three non-US airports now make United’s top 12 with Tokyo Narita ahead of both London Heathrow and Frankfurt. Indeed Narita is something of a United mini-hub, served from eight US airports with onward flights to six Asian cities. (Manchester also gets a daily service from Washington on May 1; but this was not funny enough to add to the image.)

The recent integration of their reservation systems means that as far as customers are concerned the merger between Continental and United is now complete. This also means that all schedule data in GDS’s is now listed solely under United with the Continental brand name consigned to history along with the likes of America West, Eastern, Northwest, Pan-Am and TWA. This week takes a look at some of the key features of the ‘new’ United’s network.

New United Top 12 airports by weekly departing flights

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 March 2012

The enlarged airline has eight major operating bases as measured in terms of weekly departing flights, with Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Chicago O’Hare significantly larger than the rest. At present the airline flies to 385 airports worldwide. An analysis of the leading airports in terms of weekly seat capacity shows exactly the same top 12 airports.

Frankfurt, London and Tokyo leading international airports

Taking into account distance flown a look at United’s leading airports in terms of weekly ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) reveals that Newark is now the airline’s leading airport, followed by Houston and Chicago.

New United Top 12 airports by weekly departing ASKs

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 March 2012

Three non-US airports (shown in light green) now make the top 12 with Tokyo Narita (eighth) beating London Heathrow (ninth) and Frankfurt (11th). Cleveland no longer features in the top 12. While London Heathrow is purely served from six US airports with between one and five daily flights, Tokyo Narita is a mini-hub for United, served from eight US airports but with onward flights to Bangkok, Guam, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei.

San Francisco leads top routes by ASKs

Analysis of the leading non-stop routes by ASKs reveals that United’s flights from Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and Newark to San Francisco lead the way, closely followed by the leading international route; the five times daily service between Newark and London Heathrow.

New United Top 12 routes by weekly departing ASKs (millions)

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 12 March 2012

United currently operates 978 non-stop routes of which the smallest (in terms of ASKs) is the twice-weekly flight between Guam and Rota (Northern Mariana Islands) which are only 90 kilometres apart in the South Pacific, and which is served by Cape Air’s 46-seat ATR 42s, operating on behalf of United Express.

Five new international routes planned for this summer

The imminent start of the 2012 summer season will see United add a number of significant new routes, summarised in the following table.

Launch Date Route Weekly frequency Aircraft
6 April 2012 Newark – Buenos Aires 7 B767-300ER
30 April 2012 Washington Dulles – Doha (via Dubai) 7 B777-200ER
1 May 2012 Washington Dulles – Manchester 7 B757-200
14 May 2012 San Francisco – Washington Reagan 7 B737-700
7 June 2012 Denver – Fairbanks 7 B737-800
7 June 2012 Washington Dulles – Dublin 7 B757-200
7 June 2012 Washington Dulles – Honolulu 7 B767-400ER
7 June 2012 Houston Intercontinental – Rapid City 7 ERJ145
1 July 2012 Newark – Istanbul Atatürk 7 B767-300
Source: new route database

Washington Dulles will welcome three new international routes to Doha, Dublin and Manchester, while Newark gets new international services to Argentina and Turkey.


  1. Toxteth O'Grady says:

    What’s lost in all this is that United has tried to push connecting passengers off its planes in favor of higher-yield point-to-point service, and it has resulted in drops in passenger counts and cutbacks in capacity. Routes that United discontinued in September 2011 are still gone this summer, and if one wants to get from Washington, DC to Tucson, AZ, the top listings are coneecting flights through Delta’s Atlanta hub or American’s hub at DFW, not United’s Houston hub. The strategy started by Robert Crandall in the ’80s of routing all traffic through a central hub as a way to capture more passengers and boost revenues per available seat mile has been de-emphasized, and it’s a lost opportunity.

  2. Parker West says:

    Another factor has to do with the cost of hub and spoke. The average route with connection to and out of O’Hare adds 20% to 40% more mileage over and above the non-stop mileage. For example (mileage est) A Seattle flight that stops in Chicago to connect with another flight to Boston easily adds 25% more mileage onto the non-stop distance. Atlanta might be the worst offender being as far south as it is. If you wish to fly Pittsburgh to San Franciso on United with the connection in Atlanta the added distance could be as high as 40%. The best hubs in this regard would be SFO, SLC, DEN, and OHA because of their central locations. Clearly fuel is wasted when a 1500 mile trip is really 2300 miles along with inreased labor costs. The airlines who are trying the reduce connections with the use of Gawd awful CRJ-200’s and the EMB family -145, -175, -190 In nonstop service both save fuel while paying pilots less and being able to hire less experienced pilots for the regional service/code share/contract carrier. Tucson has always been a tough city for service given the size of PHX and a cursed location deep at the end of the road. I don’t recall ever flying in or out of TUC without a stop/connection in LAX, SLC, DEN, or as the last stop after ELP or ALQ

  3. Dwight says:

    UA can continue to grow but why would you want your co offices in ORD vs IAH? IAH is positioned to be the gateway to Latin America and ramp up LOS/ACC respectively…

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