United Airlines has more routes to China than any other US airline, which I have to give them credit for. And now it seems like they might even get a bigger China route network starting next year. Per Airliners.net, there are rumors circulating that UA is going to launch new routes in China in early to mid 2016. These routes will likely include Chengdu and Xian.
Most exciting is that is appears that these new flights will be operated by 787-9’s. These will be only Dreamliner flights to Asia operated by a US airline besides American’s 787 route to Tokyo Haneda.
United also attempted to expand into India in the past. However, it seems that United thinks that China will be more profitable, and are therefore expanding there. While United will continue to partner with Air India, it seems that United is just more interested in China than India.
It seems that United will start service to Xian on May 3, which is giving us pretty short notice for a new international route. Chengdu may even begin earlier, maybe march. It looks like that these routes will be from San Francisco to Chengdu/Xian. Sources inside United say that, if the China routes go well, United will add more flights to China from more US cities.
United is also partnering with Air China, a sign that they are indeed moving towards new China routes.
As for these other US cities that will have flights to China after a while, I’ve got my money on Chicago, Houston, and Newark, and possibly, though less likely, LA. Houston and Newark are United fortress hubs, where you will have a hell of a time finding a plane without the yellow globe on its tail. Chicago, while there is some competition, is still big on the United hub map, and it still has plenty of flights to Asia, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. I say LA because, while it isn’t a United hub, United already has flights to Sydney, Mebourne, Tokyo, Shanghai, and others from LA, and it seems kind of like UA is looking into LA as a jumping-off point for flights to Asia and Australia.
This is a very interesting development. It seems that United may be trying to challenge American in Asia, given their recent launching of a 787 route from Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda, their other 787 flight to Beijing, and their expansion to Hong Kong a couple years back. Right now, American flies to only three cities in China: Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. United is clearly trying to one-up them and build an Asia route network of their own. I look forward to what will happen in the coming months on this subject.