United revealed its Transatlantic plans for summer 2023 yesterday, and while there’s plenty to unpack in the announcement, the star of the show is the 757. That’s a competitive weapon that United uniquely deploys on its Atlantic network.
There are a total of 9 “new” routes being announced including service to 3 “new” destinations. Why do I put them in quotes? Well, some of this has already been announced, most notably Newark – Dubai. And technically, some of these have been flown in previous years so they aren’t truly “new.” But that’s a technicality. These are new routes/cities that did not operate in 2022 or during the pandemic. Oh, and there is one city that is not coming back after joining the network in 2022.
Here’s what’s happening:
- Dubai (from Newark) starts March 25, 2023, 1x daily on a 777-200ER
- Malaga (from Newark) starts May 31, 2023, 3x weekly on a 757-200
- Stockholm (from Newark) starts May 27, 2023, 1x daily on a 757-200
- Chicago/O’Hare – Barcelona starts May 25, 2023, 1x daily on a 787-8
- Chicago/O’Hare – Shannon starts May 25, 2023, 1x daily on a 757-200
- San Francisco – Rome starts May 25, 2023, 1x daily on a 777-200ER
- Washington/Dulles – Berlin starts May 25, 2023, 1x daily on a 767-400ER
- Los Angeles – London/Heathrow 2nd daily starts March 25, 2023 on a 787-9
- Washington/Dulles – Paris/CDG 2nd daily starts June 2, 2023 on a 787-8
- Bergen (from Newark) will not return
Note that all of these routes will be summer seasonal except for the Dubai flight. Oh, and Bergen which now operates in no season at all.
United put together another fun teaser video this year to get people guessing and build hype, but ultimately, there was no way it was going to surpass last year’s announcements with exotic spots like Tenerife and Palma de Mallorca. This year had no choice but to be more subdued.
The star of the show in this year’s announcement is the 757. Sure they might be getting ratty on the inside, but they serve a unique purpose at United. They will be used to not only launch two of the three new cities in the network, but they will also fly the new Chicago – Shannon route. This is an airplane that United uses so well, opening up new thin markets and serving markets that the other airlines won’t.
I recently did a presentation for Raymond James, and I think this slide I put together is pretty relevant. It shows all narrowbody routes over 2,500 miles that flew last July for the Big Three.
American has no 757 after retiring the airplane during the pandemic. It will eventually have the A321XLR — the airline has 50 on order — but until then the 787-8 is the smallest airplane it has to fly longer haul. That is not an airplane with low fixed costs and limited capacity.
Meanwhile, Delta has plenty of 757s, but it doesn’t seem too interested in using them for Europe. It didn’t do that at all last summer, unless you count Iceland as being part of Europe. It could do it, but Delta prefers to go with a higher gauge. That makes it tougher for the airline to serve some of these smaller markets unless it can really juice demand.
United already uses its 757s over the Pond widely, and it keeps trying to do more. Bergen may not have worked — and it has finally pulled out the last 757 from Heathrow in favor larger capacity aircraft — but United has more places to put those airplanes anyway. And with 50 A321XLRs of its own on order, it has the perfect replacement for the 757 ready to go.
There is, of course, more that’s interesting here. I’m very curious to see how San Francisco – Rome does, and is it finally the time for Berlin to work better than it has from the US in the past? We shall see.
What is clear is that United is just not stopping with its focus on growing Europe. It had the most available seat miles from the US to Europe this summer, and it will again have the same next summer barring any huge changes from competitors. It has trailed Delta in previous years, but Delta has been happy letting its partners do more of the heavy lifting while United has been building up its own flying to get close to where Delta has fallen in recent times.
Percent of Transatlantic Joint Venture ASMs for Delta and United by Year
Overall, United will be up 10 percent over the Pond vs last year and up 30 percent compared to 2019. Some of this new growth over the Atlantic is diverted capacity from China, which still hasn’t opened and probably won’t anytime soon. But much of this is just pure growth in long-haul markets where United does it best.