United Airlines announced another major expansion of its international flights from Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday morning — adding three new locations and additional fights on two existing routes.
United will add flights to the Caribbean island of Curacao; Nice, France; and Palermo, Italy. United also announced it will offer additional flights to Frankfurt, Germany, and Amsterdam.
The additional flights will start at the end of this year (Curacao) through the middle of 2020.
The additional flights from Newark were part of a larger announcement that included more international flights from Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, as well.
Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network, said the new flights are intended to serve both business and premium leisure travel.
Quayle said Thursday’s announcement is part of a push that United has been making, noting the airline has added more international flights in the past 30 months than it had in the previous decade.
“We’re rethinking the way (we) add places,” he said. “There’s a focus on premium leisure, it’s a word I use often. It’s expanding the map to places that haven’t been tapped previously and finding some of our same passengers, but all for getting new passengers up in the right aircraft in the right offering.”
Thursday’s announcement, Quayle said, is evidence of this.
“If you think about it, places like Curacao, places like Nice, places like Sicily — they are focused on premium leisure traffic,” he said. “And, if you think about routes like Denver to Heathrow year-round or San Francisco to New Delhi year-round or (second flights from Newark) to Frankfurt or Amsterdam, that’s really focused on business travel and giving time of day coverage and more travel flexibility for our passengers.”
The flights will be on the airline’s wide-body network of planes, including its 767s, which are in the process of being upgraded to include the airline’s premium Polaris business class seats.
Quayle said United is retrofitting its current fleet with the premium Polaris accommodations at a rate of one plane every 7-10 days. In addition, all new planes the airline acquires will come with Polaris seats.
By the end of the year, Quayle said, approximately half of United’s 200 wide-body planes will have the Polaris class. Those ticketholders will have access to the ultra-premium Polaris lounge it has in Newark and other hubs.
The retrofit, Quayle said, is telling.
Quayle said United used to have 214 seats on its 767. The retrofit will bring that number down to 167, including 46 in Polaris business class, 22 in premium economy, 47 in economy plus seats and just 52 in regular economy.
“The aircraft really has a good segmentation in the sense that it’s a business-heavy aircraft focusing on business traffic and premium leisure traffic, giving people more choice there and also offering more ability to upgrade and burn miles,” he said.
United also has begun retrofitting its 787 with the Polaris class.
A look at the new routes and added flights:
- Newark-Curacao: Beginning Dec. 7, Saturday service on the Boeing 737-700. It is United’s 21st island destination in the Caribbean.
- Newark-Frankfurt: Beginning March 28, 2020, a second daily flight on the Boeing 767-300ER.
- Newark-Amsterdam: Beginning March 28, a second daily flight on the Boeing 767-300ER.
- Newark-Nice: Beginning May 2, daily service on the Boeing 767-300ER.
- Newark-Palermo: Beginning May 20, daily service on the Boeing 767-300ER. United is the first U.S. airline to offer nonstop service to Palermo.
Quayle said no existing routes were ended or cut to add these additional flights and said more flights from additional hubs could be added soon.
“(These new routes are being enabled) by new aircraft deliveries that we’re going to be taking,” he said. “We actually have 22 new wide-bodies that will be taking delivery on in the next 18 months.”
Quayle said that this expansion — and any additional international expansion — was not impacted by the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.
“From an international wide-body perspective, we are able to do what we wanted to do,” he said. “(The grounding) does not hamper these routes.”