United adds some international flights for September, but remains cautious

Key Points
  • United says it plans to fly in September about 37% of what it operated a year earlier.
  • The airline is remaining cautious about adding too many flights as demand is still low.

In this article

A United Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

United Airlines on Friday said it plans to add certain flights back in September, staying cautious as the coronavirus pandemic continues to depress travel demand.

The Chicago-based airline's September capacity will be 37% of year-ago levels and up 4 percentage points from its August 2020 schedule.

United has been among the most conservative airlines when it comes to restoring flights. While demand began to recover in the late spring, it stalled after a spike in coronavirus cases in the U.S. and states like New York and New Jersey issued quarantine orders for arriving travelers.

"We continue to be realistic in our approach to building back our international and domestic schedules by closely monitoring customer demand and flying where people want to go," Patrick Quayle, United's vice president for international network and alliances, said in a release.

United in September plans to fly 30% of its year-ago international schedule. Flights abroad have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic as airlines grapple with dozens of travel restrictions around the world aimed at stopping the disease from spreading.

Routes include Chicago to Tel Aviv, Chicago to Hong Kong and Houston to Amsterdam. It is also going after vacationers with service to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and to San Jose and Liberia, Costa Rica.

Domestic flying will be 40% of its September 2019 schedule. 

United said Thursday that it will consolidate its Embraer E145 flights used for short routes with just one regional partner, CommutAir, dropping airline ExpressJet.

"We have been communicating for several months that we expect to be a smaller airline in response to the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business," United said in a statement. "In February, we took our first step to simplify our partner landscape and consolidate our E145 flying. We continue to evaluate further opportunities to improve the United Express product."

United's CEO, Scott Kirby, earlier this month told CNBC that he expects revenue to reach no more than half of 2019 levels without a coronavirus vaccine.

United CEO doesn't expect to get above 50% revenue until vaccine is available
United CEO doesn't expect to get above 50% revenue until vaccine is available