Key Points:

  • United Airlines' winter expansion includes 66 flights between the US and Australia/New Zealand, marking a 40% increase from last year.

  • The airline introduces unique nonstop flights, such as San Francisco to Christchurch, as part of its Asia-Pacific growth strategy.

  • Flight search data shows a significant surge in interest for Asia-Pacific destinations, reflecting strong travel demand in the region.

United Airlines Spearheads Largest South Pacific Expansion in Aviation History

United Airlines recently announced a historic route expansion in the Pacific region, witnessing an unprecedented demand for travel to Asia and the Pacific. The carrier’s expansion includes new flight routes, some of which are firsts for a US airline. United's transpacific route network this winter is notably 94 percent larger than the previous year, underscoring the significant growth in the region.

As part of this expansion, United Airlines has introduced 15 daily nonstop flights across the Pacific and will operate 66 flights between the US and Australia and New Zealand. This marks a substantial 40 percent increase compared to the previous winter, with the Asia-Pacific network surpassing its pre-COVID size for the first time.

Post-COVID Demand Surge Drives Expansion

The increase in travel interest to the Asia-Pacific region is partly due to its delayed reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic. As Patrick Quayle, United's senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, notes, the surge in demand followed the reopening of borders. The delayed reopening of key destinations like Hong Kong and Japan in late 2022 contributed to the current boom, contrasting with earlier reopenings in Europe in 2021.

United Airlines' strategic focus on the Asia-Pacific region is evident in its addition of new destinations and enhanced service to existing cities. The airline boasts a winter network that is 61 percent larger across the Pacific than all other US airlines combined, excluding flights to mainland China.

New Direct Flights Enhance Connectivity

A highlight of United’s new offerings is the nonstop flight from San Francisco to Christchurch, New Zealand, set to commence on December 8. This route, a first and only nonstop connection between North America and New Zealand's South Island, caters to travelers seeking outdoor experiences and aims to facilitate easier travel between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Additional services include new flights from San Francisco to Manila, Philippines, and from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, and Brisbane, Australia. The expansion also includes new daily flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, the resumption of direct flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita, and proposed nonstop flights from Houston to Tokyo-Haneda.

Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Serve New Routes

The majority of these new flights will be operated by United's Boeing 787 Dreamliners, equipped with various cabin classes to cater to diverse traveler needs. These aircraft feature United’s Polaris business class with lie-flat seats and premium amenities, enhancing comfort on long-haul flights that can extend up to 17 or 18 hours. Other cabin options include Premium Plus, Economy Plus, and regular economy classes.

Surge in Asia-Pacific Flight Searches

Travel interest in the Asia-Pacific region has seen a significant rise, with Kayak reporting a year-over-year increase in flight searches to key destinations such as Tokyo, Auckland, and Ho Chi Minh City. The search data indicates a continued growth trend in interest for 2024, reflecting robust demand for travel in the region.