COVID Route Wars: United Strikes Back At JetBlue Again With Boston-London Service

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In recent years United has moved to eliminate all flights that don’t begin or end in one of their hub airports of Chicago, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington/IAD. Other network carriers, like Delta, have been more willing to have flights that don’t operate to one of their hubs.

But COVID-19 has shaken things up.

After JetBlue announced a massive expansion from Newark, United decided to drop their playbook and retaliate.

In August, United announced a number of new routes that didn’t operate to hub airports, like Boston, Cleveland, LaGuardia, and Milwaukee to Tampa and Pittsburgh to Fort Myers. Many of those additions focused on routes with a JetBlue presence.

JetBlue is planning on flying Boston to London later this year with business class suites, and United seems determined to let JetBlue know they won’t make it easy to make a profit on the route.

United will fly nonstop from Boston to London Heathrow later this year on their premium heavy Polaris 767-300. The plane has a whopping 46 Polaris business class seats, 22 Premium Plus seats, 47 Economy Plus seats, and 52 Economy Minus seats.

I expect to see a bruising fare war, which should be a boon for passengers if the skies open later this year.

United says they plan to retain all 18 of their other daily London routes from  their hubs, so somehow they have an additional Heathrow slot to use. Before COVID those were a highly valuable commodity, but I’d imagine the availability of those slots has increased.

The flight will depart Boston at 10pm and arrive into London at 9:35am the next day. It will depart London at 5pm and arrive into Boston at 7:30pm.

The westbound flight time means that most people won’t be able to connect in Boston, but as United only flies from their hubs (which all have existing London service) to Boston, I can’t imagine that many people will use this route for connections, other than for likely plentiful award availability.

United is in a distant 4th place in Boston behind JetBlue, Delta, and American, which will all operate Boston-London nonstop this year. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also fly the route nonstop. It’s hard to imagine how United can operate this route profitably or for the long term, but I guess they’re trying to signal to JetBlue that they’re unhappy with their increased presence in Newark?

What do you make of this new United route? Do you think it will stick around for the long term?

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3 Comments On "COVID Route Wars: United Strikes Back At JetBlue Again With Boston-London Service"

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Steve

Let’s see which starts first – BOS-LHR or JFK-LAX/SFO

L

Best think that happened for Newark is Jet blue.

DanG

Let’s compare: United flying 1 route to London via (1) older 767 in an airport that has a relatively small presence. Other than flying to their hubs, not much beyond Florida.

JetBlue has a significant presence in Boston, and will most likely be flying brand new, fuel efficient, A321LR’s. Plenty of room for expansion and could easily fly multiple times daily if demand exists. If not, it needs far less people to make money on this route.

If I have a bunch of points on UA, it may be a great way to spend points as it will most likely be cheaper due to low demand. It’s another old play by Kirby’s playbook that is a 1990’s solution to a 2021 problem. I can’t see how UA comes out with anything but a loss on this route.

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