August 16, 2022
Today in Aviation: United Airlines Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: United Airlines Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

MIAMI – Today in Aviation, United Airlines (UA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002. It was to be the largest airline bankruptcy in US history. At the time, the airline operated around 1,800 flights per day and had approximately 17% of all air capacity in the United States.

The airline had struggled through two years of heavy losses citing a slump in the economy, poor business strategies including the failed attempt at acquiring US Airways (US) and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It had lost US$4bn over the past two years. 

UA had applied for a $1.5 billion loan from the federal Air Transportation Stablization Board but this was rejected. The airlines management board then voted unanimously to file for bankruptcy protection. 

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways


The subsequent restructuring saw the airlines fleet reduced from 557 down to 460 aircraft. Staff was furloughed, routes cut and it’s Miami (MIA0 hub closed down.

As part of its restructuring process UA established a low-cost subsidiary called Ted on November 12, 2003. The airline lasted until January 2009 when it was integrated back in to the mainline operation. It also introduced an update to its iconic tulip livery. Designed by Pentagram, the new ‘Blue Tulip’ look was to signify its fresh start.

United eventually merged from bankruptcy on February 1, 2006. It had been the longest airline bankruptcy in aviation history. On March 31, 2013 UA and Continental Airlines (CO) merged. The UA name survived along with the CO logo. Today United is the third largest airline in the world operating 721 aircraft. 

Old Vs. New. Two Boeing 757s in the airline’s old and post-Continental merger livery. (Photo: Airways Library)

Featured image: United Airlines N648UA Boeing 767-300ER. Photo: Sean Brink/Airways

Writer, aviation fanatic, plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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