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United Airlines Adds Flights, Extends Waivers, Warns of Impending Mass Furloughs

United is ramping up for summer but remains vigilant against dark days ahead

July 8, 2020

United Airlines is ramping up schedules and passenger assistance while at the same time preparing for drastic cuts to come in the fall. The Chicago-based airline told some 36,000 employees, just under half its domestic workforce of flight attendants, mechanics, maintenance workers, pilots and customer service employees, that they may lose their jobs around Oct. 1. That is the earliest date that airlines receiving funds under the CARES Act can eliminate jobs.

To put all these actions into perspective, United is holding a conference call to discuss second-quarter 2020 financial results on Wednesday, July 22, at 9:30 a.m. CT/10:30 a.m. ET. The live, listen-only webcast of the conference call will be available at

Earlier this month United announced that it would be tripling the size of its August schedule compared to June and July, adding nearly 25,000 domestic and international flights that will add up to 40 percent of the flights it made in August 2019. However, those plans may now be tempered somewhat as new waves of Coronavirus swell and destinations put quarantine restrictions in place.

While travel demand remains a fraction of what it was at the end of 2019, customers are slowly returning to flying with a preference for leisure destinations, trips to reunite with friends and family, and getaways to places that encourage social distancing. According to TSA throughput numbers, more than 600,000 passengers passed through airport security checkpoints on Monday, June 29, marking the first time since March 19 that those numbers exceeded 25 percent of pre-COVID levels.

United has overhauled its cleaning and safety procedures under United CleanPlus and is giving customers more flexibility when booking by extending its waiver of change fees and award redeposit fees for reservations through July 31.

United plans to add more than 350 daily flights from its U.S. hubs in August, including doubling the number of flights from New York/Newark compared to July. This increase includes more flights to mountain and national park destinations like Aspen, Colorado; Bangor, Maine; Bozeman, Montana; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Internationally, United’s August schedule will include a return to Tahiti and additional flights to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico. Across the Atlantic, United will add more flights and options to Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris and Zurich. As of this week, United also resumed flights to China with twice-weekly flights between San Francisco and Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport via Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.

“We’re taking the same data-driven, realistic approach to growing our schedule as we did in drawing it down at the start of the pandemic,” said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of Domestic Network Planning. “Demand is coming back slowly and we’re building in enough capacity to stay ahead of the number of people traveling. And we’re adding in flights to places we know customers want to travel to, like outdoor recreation destinations where social distancing is easier but doing so in a way that’s flexible and allows us to adjust should that demand change.”

Meanwhile, as each day brings new sets of data, drama, demand, deliniations and decrees, the airline hopes to put whatever metrics it can muster in a skyward position.

Domestic Flights

Domestically, United hopes to fly some 48 percent of its 2019 schedule in August compared to 2019 levels, up from 30 percent in July. Travelers in search of more socially distant vacation options like beach, mountain and national park destinations will see more opportunities for leisure travel in United’s August schedule. Highlights include:

  • Adding more than 600 daily flights to more than 200 airports across the United States, including the resumption of 50 routes from July to August.
  • Expanding flights at 147 airports across the United States.
  • Increasing connectivity in United’s mid-continental hubs, including Chicago, Denver and Houston.
  • Doubling the number of flights from New York/Newark
  • Returning around 90 aircraft back into service, including adding more CRJ-550 service between New York/Newark and St. Louis; Indianapolis; Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati; Norfolk, Virginia; and Columbus, Ohio.
  • Increasing service between Hawaii and its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Resuming service to more Hawaiian destinations, including Lihue from San Francisco and Hilo from Los Angeles.

International Flights

“United’s international schedule continues to be guided by customer demand as we add back capacity in regions with relative strength,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network and Alliances. “For August, we’ve seen increasing demand for leisure travel and have added options to places like Cancun and reinstated service to Tahiti. Additionally, we are further building out service to partner hubs like Frankfurt and Zurich, where customers can connect on to a wide array of destinations.”

TransAtlantic Flights

Internationally, United is scheduled to fly 25 percent of its schedule in August, up from 16 percent in July. Across the Atlantic, United plans to offer customers more opportunities to get to Europe and beyond, with more flying from Chicago, New York/Newark and San Francisco. Highlights include:

  • Resuming service between Chicago and Brussels and Frankfurt.
  • Resuming service between New York/Newark and Brussels, Munich and Zurich.
  • Resuming service between San Francisco and London.

Upon government approval, United will restart daily service between Delhi and San Francisco and New York/Newark.

Pacific Asia Flights

Across the Pacific in August, United is hoping to restart three-times-weekly service connecting the mainland United States and Tahiti. In July, United made several changes to its Asia Pacific schedule. Highlights of United’s service include:

  • Starting new service, five times weekly, between Chicago and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. United will continue operating daily service to Tokyo Narita from New York/Newark and San Francisco.
  • Resuming service between Hong Kong and San Francisco five days a week, with service continuing to Singapore.
  • Resuming service to Seoul, South Korea three days a week.
  • Resuming service to Shanghai from San Francisco two days a week.

Latin America/Caribbean Flights

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, United is looking to expand across each region with a total of 35 new routes for August. Highlights of United’s schedule include:

  • Resuming service between Houston and Lima.
  • Resuming service between New York/Newark and Sao Paulo.
  • Resuming service between Mexico City and Chicago, New York/Newark and San Francisco.
  • Adding more ways to get to Cancun from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York/Newark and San Francisco.
  • Resuming service to San Salvador and Guatemala City from Houston, New York/Newark, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
  • Increasing the number of flights between Houston and Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara and Leon in Mexico; Panama City, Panama.
  • Increasing the number of flights between New York/Newark and Punta Cana, Santiago and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Clean Flights

United’s CleanPlus program was created out of an alliance with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to redefine cleaning and health safety procedures from check-in to landing. New safe flying policies and protocols include:

Requiring all travelers – including crew members – to wear face coverings and potentially revoking travel privileges for customers who do not follow these requirements, as underscored in a recent video from United CEO, Scott Kirby.

Using state-of-the-art high-efficiency (HEPA) filters on United aircraft to circulate air and remove up to 99.97% of airborne particles.

Using electrostatic spraying on all mainline aircraft before departure for enhanced cabin sanitation.

Adding a step to the check-in process, based on a recommendation from the Cleveland Clinic, requiring customers to acknowledge they do not have symptoms for COVID-19 and agree to follow our policies, including wearing a mask on board.

Offering customers a touchless baggage check-in experience at more than 200 airports across the United States; United is the first and only U.S. airline to make this technology available.