Why United’s Plan to Expand Could Mean Cheaper Flights for Smaller Cities
United Airlines President Scott Kirby has announced plans to seriously expand the airline’s operations — and that could mean more flights at lower prices.
According to Bloomberg, United is particularly keen on improving operations at its hubs in Chicago, Denver, and Houston. Already, the airline has increased the number of connections to Houston, and Chicago will get a significant boost next month.
United is also shifting its strategy to address smaller, underserved cities with regional airports (like Bismarck, North Dakota, and Canton, Ohio).
Unlike major cities with massive international airports — or two or three, like New York City and Washington, D.C. — travelers in these so-called “spoke” cities have to pay a premium to connect to major hubs.
Back in November, for example, the airline added new year-round and seasonal routes from five of its hubs to domestic cities like Elmira, Wilmington, and El Paso. And earlier this month, the carrier announced new flights from all of its hubs to eight destinations across California, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
To make this all happen, United has ordered 31 new short-haul jets, set to be delivered this year.
While United’s intentions are certainly profit-related, travelers in secondary cities may have the most to gain from this new tactic.
In addition to the convenience of having more flights to choose from, increased competition for travelers often forces airlines to slash prices.
Kirby has denied that an all-out airfare war will break out between the major domestic carriers, Bloomberg reported. But as United continues to grab at customers historically serviced by Delta and American Airlines, lower ticket charges are almost inevitable.
Of course, not all of United’s ambitions are aimed at domestic cities. Last year, United increased service to Hawaii on 11 routes. (And it’s worth noting that this triggered a major plummet in flight prices.)
At this time, United is expecting to grow capacity by 6 percent every year until 2021.