United Airlines’ big long-haul expansion with 5 routes to Africa + India; P2P demand of 524,000

United Airlines' big long-haul expansion with 5 routes to Africa + India; P2P demand of 524,000

United Airlines will begin three routes to Africa and two to India, together with two domestic services to Hawaii.

Of these seven, only three are new for the carrier: Chicago O’Hare – Delhi, Newark – Johannesburg, and San Francisco – Bangalore.

Its coming Johannesburg service follows Newark – Cape Town, which it began last December on a three-weekly, winter-seasonal basis.

Chicago – Kona, Newark – Kahului, and Washington Dulles to both Accra and Lagos, meanwhile, are returning.

However, unlike before, when Accra and Lagos were linked with a five-weekly service from Dulles, they will now each be served non-stop.

Combined, United’s five Africa and India routes have estimated P2P demand alone – before all the connectivity over its hubs – of 524,000:

  • San Francisco – Bangalore: 137,000
  • Newark – Johannesburg: 134,000
  • Chicago – Delhi: 125,000
  • Washington Dulles – Accra: 72,000
  • Dulles – Lagos: 56,000

Of these, it is most likely that Chicago – Delhi will suffer most given Air India’s once-daily service using B777-300ERs and the many one-stop options across Middle Eastern, European, Asian, and other North American operators.

Routing Weekly frequency Start period (dates currently unknown) Direct competition (WF) Indirect competition (WF)
Chicago O’Hare – Delhi 7 December 2020 Air India (7) None
Chicago O’Ohare -Kona 3 Summer 2021 None None
Newark – Johannesburg 7 Spring 2021 None South African: JFK (7)
Newark – Kahului 4 Summer 2021 None None
San Francisco -Bangalore 7 Spring 2021 None None
Washington Dulles -Accra 3 Spring 2021 South African (7) None
Washington Dulles – Lagos 3 Spring 2021 None None
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. * Based on this coming winter

US – Africa passed 2.2 million seats last year

The US – Africa non-stop and one-stop through service market had over 2.2 million seats last year, up by 17% YOY.

But except for last year, capacity has been more or less flat in the past decade.

Interestingly, United’s new countries – Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa – had 98% of all US – Africa seats in 2011.  Last year, however, this had reduced to just 51%.  This is mainly from the strong growth of Ethiopian Airlines.

What this does not show is that actual capacity to these countries has reduced from a peak of nearly 1.8 million to just over 1.1 million last year.

This coming winter it is expected that 21 routes will operate between the two. As of now, the top-five routes, by seat capacity, will be:

  • Ethiopian Airlines: Washington Dulles – Addis Ababa
  • South African: New York JFK – Johannesburg
  • EgyptAir: JFK – Cairo
  • Royal Air Maroc: JFK – Casablanca
  • South African: Dulles – Accra – Johannesburg

Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, South African, Delta, and EgyptAir are expected to have the most seats this winter in that order.

Delta serves Lagos from both Atlanta and New York JFK, and Accra from Atlanta. Its Atlanta – Johannesburg will route Atlanta – Johannesburg – Cape Town – Atlanta from this December.

United Airlines previously served Accra from Dulles using B767-300ERs.  It began in June 2010 with Lagos being tagged on the following year.  Accra ended in 2012, while Lagos operated between 2011 and 2016, initially from Dulles via Accra and then non-stop from Houston.

United Airlines' big long-haul expansion with 5 routes to Africa + India; P2P demand of 524,000

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Bangalore – San Francisco a long time coming

Curiously, US – India had just 41,000 more seats (non-stop and through service) than US – Africa last year.

The US to India market amounted to almost 2.3 million seats, down by 9% YOY and not meaningfully changed for years. This was mainly from India’s airspace restrictions and the resulting impact on supply.

And it despite two new routes in December last year: United from San Francisco to Delhi and Delhi from JFK to Mumbai.

Not surprisingly from the myriad of one-stop options to India, together with yields and distance, India had just 5.1% of total US – Asia seats last year.  India’s proportion was its second-lowest in a decade.

With United’s two new routes, it’ll now have five routes to India, alongside Newark – Mumbai (2012), Newark – Delhi (2012), and San Francisco – Delhi (2010).

Significantly, United’s new San Francisco – Bangalore route will mean the Karnataka city will now have two non-stop routes to the US, with American also due to begin Seattle – Bangalore next year.

United Airlines' big long-haul expansion with 5 routes to Africa + India; P2P demand of 524,000

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.


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