By Benjamin Pham
United Expands Flight Schedule to Prepare for Football Season
The summer travel holiday season – usually when leisure travel demand is at its peak during the year – will soon be coming to an end. This summer was like no other as most, if not all, major airlines searched for different methods to tackle the Covid-19 ordeal amid border reopenings and a push for vaccinations. However, Fall is right around the corner, and passengers demand will be high for a different reason. In response, United recently unveiled new routes for this upcoming fall when passengers will be flocking to college and professional football games that will be well underway on game day weekends.
For this fall travel season, United plans to add 74 flights, 52 of which are brand new routes between college towns and professional football cities, making the schedule for flights to college towns three times larger than in 2019. Additionally, the prominent Star Alliance carrier is scheduled to add 58 new flights and increase connectivity between college towns, including 44 point-to-point flights mainly targeted towards larger, more popular football games and away games.
“Nothing brings people together like the opportunity to cheer on the teams they love,” Ankit Gupta, Vice President of domestic network planning, United. “This upcoming season, United is adding even more direct flights to college and professional football games than we’ve ever added before so our customers can reunite with the teams, tailgates, and touchdowns they may have missed last season.”
The carrier plans to fly a variety of routes for some of the games featuring major colleges such as the University of Texas, Pennsylvania State University, University of Iowa, Michigan State University, University of Alabama and Texas A&M University among several other universities. Meanwhile, 16 new, nonstop flights are scheduled to operate for competitive games occurring early in the season for professional football.
While United focuses and prepares itself for the upcoming fall where passengers will travel for leisure and business, the carrier is in the process of transforming the onboard cabin service as normalcy gradually returns onboard flights. In late July, the Chicago-based carrier revealed its pre-order food and beverage option that passengers can use up to five days before their flight, which will be active after Aug.2.
“Our new pre-order option reflects the customer experience transformation taking place at United – customers in our economy cabins will have an easy, convenient way to choose their snack or drink, and our flight attendants can move through the cabin faster, delivering more personalized service,” Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer for United, said. “This new feature also builds on our existing contactless payment technology, which has enabled us to safely resume our inflight food and beverage program on select flights.”
Passengers are now able to use the airline’s mobile app or website to view and pre-order food and beverages from the buy-on-board menu. Furthermore, the carrier plans to expand the option for all flights over 1,500 miles early in the fall travel season.
It is clear that United is looking ahead to this fall and preparing for the looming high passenger demand, in spite of widespread reinstated mask mandates and the rising fear of spreading Covid-19. The airline has its strategy laid out for attracting a different market of passengers and has the anticipation for leisure travel to continue this Fall. However, United should exercise caution and be mindful when expanding as there are still portions of the passenger market that are anxious to return to the skies.