CHICAGO — United Airlines announced a major expansion of trans-Atlantic service Tuesday morning, revealing four new seasonal routes launching in Summer 2018. The highlights include the carrier’s first ever nonstop flights to Porto, Portugal, and Reykjavik, Iceland (both from United’s Newark hub). United will also add nonstop service from Washington Dulles to Edinburgh and from San Francisco to Zurich. All four routes will be operated daily.
The Newark to Porto route will be flown by a Boeing 757-200 jet, with flight schedules as follow:
Flight From To Departure Arrival 2018 UA144 EWR OPO 9:45 p.m. 9:50 a.m. May 4-Oct. 3 UA145 OPO EWR 12:35 p.m. 1:35 p.m. May 5-Oct. 4
Newark – Keflavik (Reykjavik) will also be flown with a Boeing 757-200. The proposed flight schedule is as follows:
Flight From To Departure Arrival 2018 UA138 EWR KEF 10:30 p.m. 8:10 a.m. May 23-Oct. 3 UA139 KEF EWR 11:55 a.m. 2:05 p.m. May 24-Oct. 4
San Francisco – Zurich will be flown by a Boeing 787-8 with flight schedules as follow:
Flight From To Departure Arrival 2018 UA44 SFO ZRH 2:10 p.m. 10:10 a.m. June 7-Oct. 26 UA45 ZRH SFO 9:50 a.m. 12:40 p.m. June 8-Oct. 27
Washington Dulles – Edinburgh will also be flown with a Boeing 757-200 with flight schedules as follow:
Flight From To Departure Arrival 2018 UA146 IAD EDI 10:10 p.m. 10:25 a.m. May 23-Oct. 3 UA147 EDI IAD 12:40 p.m. 3:40 p.m. May 24-Oct. 4
In addition to launching the four new routes in question, United is also extending the operating period of many of its other summer seasonal routes to Europe. In particular, Chicago – Edinburgh, Chicago – Dublin, Washington Dulles – Lisbon, and San Francisco – Munich will see extended operating periods that begin in April and May of 2018 and stretch until October of the same year.
United has long been the largest US airline in the trans-Atlantic market. However, this growth comes at a time when said market has been roiled by the impact of ultra-low cost carriers (ULCCs) like Norwegian Air Shuttle and WOW Air, who are increasingly attacking secondary US markets like Austin and Cleveland with nonstop service. Given the competitive threat of ULCCs, the impetus for these routes may well be to invert their strategy by drawing in customers for secondary European markets via primary US hubs. But fares in the market are under substantial pressure, and it is likely that United will lose money on at least a couple of these flights.