In the midst of a pandemic that has brought nearly all long-haul travel to a screeching halt, United Airlines announced Wednesday it plans to launch several brand new long-haul routes to India, Africa, and even Hawaii by next spring.
The Chicago-based carrier's brand new nonstop flights to destinations from Maui (OGG) to Nigeria all the way to New Delhi (DEL) come at a time when airlines need to think outside of the box. With most travel at a standstill, is United making a calculated move by shifting planes and pilots where some unmet demand exists? Or are they throwing aviation spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks?
“Now is the right time to take a bold step in evolving our global network to help our customers reconnect with friends, family and colleagues around the world,” Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of international network and alliances, said in a statement.
Only time will tell how many of these new routes actually take off – plenty can change between now and next spring. But here's a look at what United is planning.
New Nonstops to Hawaii
There are no shortage of options to get to the Hawaiian islands – at least when travel to Hawaii resumes. But United is adding a few more direct flights to popular islands, including a truly long-haul flight.
- Newark (EWR) to Maui (OGG): 4x weekly flights starting summer 2021 on a Boeing 767-300ER
- Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Kona (KOA): 4x weekly flights starting summer 2021 on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Read more: Closed Now, Cheaper in 2021: Flight Prices to Hawaii are Dropping
More Nonstop Flights to Africa
United made waves last year when it launched nonstop seasonal service to Cape Town (CPT) from Newark (EWR). It was the first (and still, the only)
Those flights are currently on pause, but United plans to supplement it with a new flight to South Africa's largest city.
- Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB): Daily service starting in spring 2021 on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Meanwhile, United is also beefing up its flights into major west African hubs:
- Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) to Accra, Ghana (ACC): 3x weekly flights starting spring 2021 on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) to Lagos, Nigeria (LOS): 3x weekly flights starting spring 2021 on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Two New Flights to India
United already flies direct to New Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM). Starting this winter, it's adding even more options to get to India:
- Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to New Delhi (DEL): Daily flights starting December 2020 on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
- San Francisco (SFO) to Bangalore (BLR): Daily flights starting spring 2021 on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Well … that's something. At a time when most airlines are shrinking into survival mode, United is giving travelers more options to get to Hawaii, Africa, and India.
Will all these flights take off as planned? We doubt it. Travel has fallen off a cliff – and especially business travel.
But many of these new routes are focused wooing vacationers (to Hawaii) or those looking to go visit friends and family (in Africa or India). So perhaps United sees something here that makes these flights less outlandish than they seem.
Lead photo courtesy of Steve Lynes via Flickr