Continental’s former CEO Larry Kellner, who was sacked for refusing to merge with United, was quoted as saying that Newark-Tel Aviv was their most profitable route.
USAirways’ then president Scott Kirby called Philadelphia-Tel Aviv among the most lucrative routes in their network, before American merged with USAirways and suddenly axed the route, citing alleged poor route performance. Mr. Kirby jumped ship and is now the effective CEO of United.
Last year United upgauged the redeye flight between Newark and Tel Aviv from a Boeing 777-200 (772) to a 777-300ER (77W). That flight went from 50 business seats and 217 coach seats to 60 business seats and 306 coach seats.
United launched their San Francisco to Tel Aviv route on 3/30/16 with 3 weekly flights and the route was so successful that they increased it to daily flights in October 2016. United is upgauging that route from a 787-8 to a 77W from May through October. That flight will go from 36 business seats and 183 coach seats to 60 business seats and 306 coach seats.
Avi Friedman, United’s Managing Director in Israel, has some interesting quotes in the Israeli press today.
Globes is reporting that the San Francisco upgauge is apparently due to the Newark flights being so full that there is more capacity needed for summer travel from the west coast to Israel.
The Newark flight is doing so well that United is looking into upgauging the afternoon flight to Israel from the 772 to the 77W. That will add an additional 99 daily seats to the route. That’s good news for business class passengers and bad news for coach passengers, though perhaps the additional space will create downward pressure on pricing.
PassportNews is reporting that Avi Friedman also said that in the not too distant future there will be a new United destination in the US besides for Newark and San Francisco! He refused to say what the destination might be.
Ever since the Continental-United merger I’ve been saying that a Chicago-Tel Aviv route would make perfect sense. When I went to a United DO at their headquarters in Chicago’s Willis Tower in 2012 I met with Brian Znotins, who was then VP of United’s network strategy, but has now moved onto WestJet. At the time United only flew from Newark to Tel Aviv and on DDF we had some lively discussions about a United flight from Chicago or San Francisco to Tel Aviv.
He told me that there was a lot of internal debate on that very topic as the revenue guys thought that there was going to be a lot of business class travel between San Francisco and Tel Aviv while the network planning guys think Chicago would make more logical sense as more traffic from across the country can feed into it. Of course a 3rd daily flight out of Newark can also make sense as that grabs traffic from NYC as well as the entire country.
In the end San Francisco won out and has outperformed United’s expectations. If United moves Newark-Tel Aviv to 2 daily 77Ws they will have effectively added the capacity that a 3rd daily flight on that route would have done.
United’s remaining hubs are:
- Guam, zero demand for a flight to Israel.
- Houston, good business community, but small Jewish population and more of a hub for Latin America.
- Denver, small Jewish population and not ideally positioned for a flight to Israel
- Los Angeles, a smaller United hub with competing nonstop service from El Al and it would be redundant on a coast where United already has a nonstop flight to Israel.
- Washington DC/IAD, not a bad option, but it’s too close to Newark and the massive capacity that United has from there to Israel. It would be redundant for United to have 2 East Coast cities with service to Israel.
In my mind, all that’s missing is the announcement for Chicago-Tel Aviv service. Chicago is a massive hub for United and is getting even bigger with the airport expansion plans there. It’s also centrally located to pickup feed from just about everywhere in between the west coast and the east coast, and it has a large Jewish community.
At that point El Al would have to decide whether they want to fight United for Chicago market share or whether to launch service to Baltimore/Washington DC. Or El Al could try to steal United’s thunder by announcing a Chicago flight before they do.
Either way, I’d be shocked if at least one US city doesn’t get a new Tel Aviv route announcement this year.