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United Airlines to fly 91% of its pre-pandemic capacity in December

written by Isabella Richards | October 8, 2021
A file image of a United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9. (Wikimedia Commons/Konstantin von Wedelstaedt).

United Airlines is set to fly its biggest domestic schedule since early last year, notching up to 91 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity.

The Chicago-based airline said it would offer over 3,500 daily domestic flights in December in response to the travel surge.

According to the company’s app, holiday travel flight searches have increased 16 per cent compared to 2019.

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Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling said United is seeing most holiday searches for “warm sunshine and fresh snow” destinations.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centres on the two things people want most for the holidays,” he added.

“We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we’re thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together.”

The carrier said it is placing emphasis on connecting the Midwest to warm weather cities including Las Vegas and Orlando.

“United will offer up to 195 daily flights to 12 destinations in Florida this winter, the most flights to the Sunshine State in company history,” the company said.

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“United is also resuming direct flights from Columbus, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh to Fort Myers – which were some of the airline’s most popular point-to-point flights last winter.”

It will also operate 66 daily flights to ski destinations, including a new route between Orange County and Aspen.

It comes as airlines are preparing for the soaring demand for flights in the holiday season, especially as vaccination rates increase across the country.

Airlines across the globe had to slam deep cuts to both domestic and international routes when the pandemic hit, as numerous borders closed and COVID-19 infections rose.

In late March 2020, United announced significant blows to its schedule, originally planning to cut only 42 per cent of its domestic schedule but boosted it to 52 per cent.

Due to the current uptick, United will begin new direct flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix from Cleveland, and to Orlando from Indianapolis.

It will also resume some of its popular Midwest flights, including routes from Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa.

The increase in routes follows chief executive Scott Kirby’s comments made in July, saying he expected to return to profitability in the third quarter.

The airline reported a US$1.3 billion net loss in Q2 2021, a sizeable improvement over its first quarter net loss of US$2.4 billion.

Despite its overall financial results sitting 52 per cent lower than 2019 levels, the Chicago-based carrier saw US$5.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter, up from US$3.2 billion in the first quarter, largely off the back of improving consumer confidence in air travel.

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