- United Airlines plans to relaunch international service on more than 25 international routes in September.
- Though travel bans and restrictions on American travelers stemming from the pandemic have sharply curtailed international travel demand, United expects strong cargo demand on the routes, along with essential travelers.
- United, along with other airlines, has struggled to cut costs and find revenue as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the industry. United said this week it may furlough 3,900 pilots.
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United Airlines will relaunch service on more than 25 international routes in September, along with a number of domestic flights, the carrier said Friday.
The newly relaunched routes include flights to Europe, Asia, India, Australia, Israel, and Latin America from the airline’s hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.
Even if travelers want to hop aboard, though, they may not be able to. Many of the listed destinations are in countries or regions with restrictions, quarantine requirements, or outright prohibitions on most American travelers, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the US with little sign of relenting. Most Americans are not allowed to visit European Union countries, while Australia has strict limits on entry to the country.
Instead of conventional travel, the airline will rely on robust demand for international air cargo to support the routes. A United spokesperson said that the routes in question are backed by strong cargo performance in those markets. The airline also expects some traffic from those exempted from the full restrictions, such as diplomatic and medical professionals, expats living or stranded abroad, and foreign nationals living in the US.
Even with the relaunched routes, in September United will fly just 30% of its international schedule, compared to the same month in 2019. It plans to fly 25% of its August schedule, compared to last year.
United’s international destinations include several locations in Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Delhi, Mumbai, Sydney, and Hong Kong.
The airline said it will also add 40 daily flights on nearly 50 domestic routes — the airline will fly 40% of its 2019 domestic schedule. And it will resume service between the continental US and Kilo and Kauai in Hawaii, and increase flying to Honolulu, Kona, and Maui. (Hawaii imposes a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all arriving passengers. Beginning September 1, travelers can get show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure to avoid the quarantine.)
United and other airlines in the US and globally have struggled to cut costs and grow revenue as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated travel demand. Despite a modest recovery in domestic travel demand in May and June, spikes in cases and new travel restrictions have led travel to decline again.
United said earlier this week that it could furlough up to 3,900 pilots due to the low demand, or roughly one-third of its pilots.