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United Airlines doubles Newark flights in August as travelers slowly return

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 7/1/2020 Edward Russell
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United Airlines plans to double to the number of flights it offers at its Newark hub in August amid a double-digit schedule expansion as travelers continue to trickle back onto planes even as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In August, the Chicago-based carrier plans will fly about 40% of what it flew globally last year, United said on Wednesday. This includes around 350 more flights from its domestic hubs, particularly Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Newark Liberty (EWR).

Destinations with ample outdoor space, like those in the mountains and near national parks, will see the largest increases. In addition, United plans to resume many of its Hawaii flights, including service to Hilo (ITO) and Lihue (LIH), pending a relaxation of the state’s quarantine rules.

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“Demand is coming back slowly and we’re building in enough capacity to stay ahead of the number of people traveling,” Ankit Gupta, vice president of domestic network planning at United, said in a statement.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 625,235 people on Monday, June 29, its latest data shows. This was the first time since March that the number was a quarter of those screened a year ago.

However, the rise in travelers comes as a coronavirus cases spike across the U.S., particularly in southern and western states that reopened quickly. This has raised some concerns that the rise in flyer numbers could be short lived as people opt to again stay at or near home to avoid the virus.

Related: Air travel recovery faces new threat as coronavirus cases surge anew

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has said the carrier may bring down its planned August schedule “a little bit” in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The carrier has planned to operate roughly 2,000 daily flights next month.

“Current traffic trends are below what we had previously forecast… and the resurgence of COVID-19 in some areas of the U.S. adds uncertainty around potential further travel restrictions,” Goldman Sachs analyst Catherine O’Brien wrote in a report on June 28. As a result, the firm now expects the U.S. industry to recover by 2023 instead of by 2022.

United may be somewhat insulated from the recent spike in infections. The airline is the sole major U.S. carrier without a hub in the Southeast — American Airlines is in Charlotte (CLT) and Delta in Atlanta (ATL) — which gives it marginally less exposure to some of the states where case numbers are rising quickly.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening


Video: Airbus jet output to fall 40%, CEO says (Reuters)

Notably, United’s main north-south hub on the east coast, Washington Dulles (IAD), will see few added domestic flights in August.

American has yet to finalize its August schedule but plans to fly about 65% of what it flew last year in July.

United also plans to bring back some international services in August. The airline hopes to resume service to Tahiti (PPT) from San Francisco (SFO), as well routes to key European cities and partner hubs in Brussels (BRU), Frankfurt (FRA), London Heathrow (LHR), Munich (MUC) and Zurich (ZRH).

Related: These are the long-haul international routes American, Delta, Hawaiian and United plan to fly in July

U.S. airlines parked more than 3,000 aircraft during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, including these @united widebodies at Washington Dulles. #avgeek

U.S. airlines parked more than 3,000 aircraft during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, including these @united widebodies at Washington Dulles. #avgeek A post shared by Ned Russell (@airbus777) on Jun 4, 2020 at 7:10am PDT

In its statement, United did not mention the EU decision to bar all non-essential American visitors from July 1. The 27-member country bloc will update its list of permitted countries every two weeks.

United also did not mention the impact of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York’s mandatory 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving from at least nine states seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases. The airline slashed flights to the tri-state region when that area was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. in April.

In August, United will fly only about a quarter of what it flew internationally last year compared to about 48% of what it flew domestically, according to the airline.

Related: Air travel recovery may come slower than expected, analyst says

United plans to return 90 jets to regular service to support its expanded August schedule. This includes an undisclosed number of its Bombardier CRJ550s, which are the only 50-seat regional jets in the U.S. outfitted with a first class cabin.

Below is a list of select routes United plans to resume in August.

Domestic Routes

  • Chicago O’Hare – Albuquerque (ABQ), Bangor (BGR), Colorado Springs (COS), El Paso (ELP) and Missoula (MSO)
  • Denver – Charlotte (CLT), Detroit (DTW), El Paso, Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Fort Walton Beach (VPS), Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP), Hartford (BDL), Honolulu (HNL), Jacksonville (JAX), Kahului (OGG), Kona (KOA), Lihue, Little Rock (LIT), Louisville (SDF), Lubbock (LBB), Monterey (MRY), Paine Field (PAE), Richmond (RIC), Riverton, Wyoming (RIW) and Traverse City (TVC)
  • Houston Intercontinental – Amarillo (AMA), Bozeman (BZN), Honolulu, Jackson Hole (JAC), Ontario (ONT) and Rapid City (RAP)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Boston (BOS), Kalispell (FCA), Hilo, Kahului, Kona, Lihue, Phoenix (PHX) and Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
  • Newark – Bozeman, Burlington (BTV), Kansas City (MCI), Orange County (SNA), Rapid City, Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ) and Syracuse (SYR)
  • San Francisco – Lihue, Rapid City and Washington National (DCA)

Long-Haul International Routes

  • Chicago O’Hare – Brussels and Frankfurt
  • Houston Intercontinental – Lima (LIM)
  • Newark – Brussels, Munich, São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) and Zurich
  • San Francisco – London Heathrow and Tahiti

Featured image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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