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How United Airlines is Responding to the U.K. Border Re-Opening

A United Boeing 787 over the runway in Amsterdam. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Europe is a usual hotspot for tourism and leisure travel during the summer holiday travel season, but this summer is different than the previous years. Many countries that are usually major attractions for tourists across the continent have reopened their borders earlier in the summer, and several airlines resumed flight operations to rebuild route networks and increase connectivity. The U.K., however, remains closed, but its long-lasting, stringent border closure is on the verge of reopening on Aug. 2, and in response, United announced its proposal to operate more transatlantic flights to accommodate both business and leisure travelers.

The prominent Star Alliance carrier plans to add more than 40 flights a week to London’s Heathrow Airport from the U.S., consisting of six daily flights. Flights from Washington, D.C. will increase to two daily flights, while the carrier expects to operate daily flights to Houston, an increase from five times a week. 

“Today’s announcement is yet another major milestone in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the U.S.,” Patrick Quayle, Vice President of International Network Alliances, United, said.”United has demonstrated that we can operate flights between U.S. and England and we are eager to help rebuild these economies by facilitating business and leisure travel.”

Meanwhile, Chicago, Newark and San Francisco, which are United’s other key hubs in the U.S., will continue to see daily flights to London this summer. Ultimately, the airline is scheduled to operate six daily, transatlantic flights beginning in September.

The Transatlantic Market

Transatlantic routes from the U.S. to Europe are cutthroat and very competitive, where multiple carriers are constantly vying to capture as much of the market as possible and fill their planes up with more passengers. United’s strategic tactic and response to the rise in international demand was to increase frequencies from its hubs and inaugurate new flights.

Earlier this summer, the carrier announced the resumption of flights between Newark and Athens, Greece while starting new flights to Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 1. In addition, flights between Washington, D.C. and Athens began in July, while the Chicago-based carrier resumed services from Newark to Spain and Portugal, after the two were among the first countries to reopen its borders.

“As we start to see a strong desire from our customers to travel internationally to re-opened countries, we are excited to move up service and add a fourth weekly flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia,” Quayle said. “And with the additional seats we’re adding to Athens, Greece, we continue to make creative adjustments to match our service with customer trends.”

In the meantime, the other two rival, legacy carriers in the U.S. aimed to retrieve a portion of the transatlantic air travel. Delta also began its first flights to Croatia in July from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, while American restructured its transatlantic route network where much of its flights will resume this summer or winter, to maximize revenue and minimize costs.

Clearly, United is poised to rebuild its route network, including an essential portion of its transatlantic network. Ultimately, undoubtedly travel demand will continue to surge as people are eager to travel, but the question still remains on how the airline will respond and handle the competition in the post-Covid-19 world, as they return to traditional routes while entering new, unfamiliar ones.

Benjamin Pham


  • Benjamin Pham

    Benjamin has had a love for aviation since a young age, growing up in Tampa with a strong interest in airplane models and playing with them. When he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, Benjamin took part in aviation photography for a couple of years at Gravelly Point and Dulles Airport, before dedicating planespotting to only when he traveled to the other airports. He is an avid, world traveler, having been able to reach 32 countries, yearning to explore and understand more cultures soon. Currently, Benjamin is an Air Transporation Management student at Arizona State University. He hopes to enter the airline industry to improve the passenger experience and loyalty programs while keeping up to how technology is being integrated into airports.

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