United Airlines Adds International Service to Ghana, India, Nigeria and South Africa

United Airlines will add a quintuplet of new international routes including service to Ghana, two destinations in India, Nigeria, and a second destination in South Africa.

San Francisco – Bangalore

In what United calls its most-requested international route, new nonstop service between San Francisco and Bangalore will connected Silicon Valley East with Silicon Valley West.

The new route will start in the Spring of 2021 and be operated by a Boeing 787-9.

Chicago – New Delhi

United Airlines will take up the mantle of a long-time, but now abandoned, American Airlines route. Chicago, United notes, has the second highest population of Indian Americans in the United States.

The new service will begin in December 2020 and utilize a 787-9.

Newark – Johannesburg

With South African Airways on life support, United will add daily service between Newark and Johannesburg beginning in Spring 2021. This will complement existing seasonal service to Cape Town. The flight will utilize a 787-9.

Patrick Quayle, United’s Vice President of International Network and Alliances, noted on a press call this morning that United has worked with Boeing to address range issues with this new route on the 787-9.

Washington – Accra

While not a brand new route, United has not served Accra, Ghana since 2012. With a growing Ghanian population in the greater Washington metro area and a more fuel and passenger efficient 787-8 Dreamliner, United hopes this new route will be a success.

The service will operate 3x weekly starting next spring. United will compete with Delta on the route, which offers service from New York JFK utilizing a 767-300.

Washington – Lagos

United will add service to Lagos, Nigeria from its Washington Dulles hub. Lagos is the largest gateway to west Africa. United operated service between Houston and Lagos for many years, but with the oil market depressed, Washington appeared a more lucrative opportunity.

The service will operate 3x weekly starting next spring utilizing a 787-8. United will compete with Delta on the route, which offers service from New York JFK utilizing a 767-300.

You may be asking yourself, aren’t we in the middle of the pandemic? Addressing that point, Quayle said:

“Now is the right time to take a bold step in evolving our global network to help our customers reconnect with friends, family and colleagues around the world. These new nonstop routes provide shorter travel times and convenient one-stop connections from across the United States, demonstrating United’s continued innovative and forward-looking approach to rebuilding our network to meet the travel needs of our customers.”

During a press call this morning, United’s Chief Communications Officer Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary for Barack Obama, bristled at the idea that United has taken a “conservative” approach to route planning, instead calling it nimble, but opportunistic.

Will these destinations actually take off? Of course it is too early to tell, but even at current demand levels United plans to operate these flights. Earnest also emphasized the increasing value of United’s cargo operation, with over 5,000 cargo flights operating since the pandemic began.


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