United Airlines, betting on a recovery in international long-haul flying, on Wednesday unveiled five international routes to Africa and India, all on Boeing 787s.
United will begin 787-9 Chicago-New Delhi flights in December and also plans San Francisco-Bangalore service in spring 2021, apparently getting a jump on American Airlines in serving India’s third largest airport.
“We will be the first airline ever to operate U.S. to Bangalore,” Patrick Quayle, United Patrick Quayle, United’s Vice President of International Network and Alliances, said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.
American surprised the world in February, announcing that it would begin service from Seattle to Bangalore in October. It was the first time the U.S. airline industry turned its attention to Bangalore, the center of a burgeoning technology region known as the Silicon Valley of India.
“Bangalore’s time has come,” Hari Marar, airport managing director and CEO of Kempegowda International Airport, said at the time, as he welcomed the American flight.
But American’s service, delayed by the coronavirus crisis, is now planned to start in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“Our service will start many months before their service starts,” Quayle said, referring to the American flight.
Besides the two India flights, which will fly pending government approvals, United set three new flights to Africa starting in the late spring or summer of 2021.
Quayle said United plans thrice-weekly Dulles to Accra, Ghana using a Boeing 787-8; thrice weekly Dulles to Lagos, Nigeria on a 787-8 and daily Newark to Johannesburg, South Africa on a 787-9.
United already provides seasonal, three-times-weekly service between Newark and Cape Town. By adding Johannesburg, it will operate more flights to South Africa than any other U.S. carrier.
“Traffic to Africa has had to connect over Europe or had to connect over the middle east,” Quayle said. But because of its well-placed hubs, particularly Dulles, “We are the airline best suited to carry people into Africa and into India,” he said.
He said Washington has the second largest U.S. population of Ghanaians, while Lagos is the largest West African destination from the U.S.
United also plans to begin non-stop thrice-weekly Chicago-Tel Aviv service on Thursday. United, already the largest non-stop operator to Israel, currently servies Tel Aviv from Newark and San Francisco and will resume Dulles-Tel Aviv in October.
Additionally, United plans two new long-haul mainland-Hawaii flights, including Newark to Maui and Chicago to Kona International Airport. The flights will be the first to Maui from the East Coast and the first to Kona from a city that is east of the Mississippi River. “We are the largest (carrier) between the U.S. and Hawaii,” Quayle said.
United is moving to restore international travel, despite the obstacle of widespread global travel vans. Before coronavirus, it operated 325 daily peak international departures in 211 markets. In April, the carrier operated just 11 international departures in ten markets. In September, United will operate 101 departures in 103 markets.