United Airlines seemingly isn’t concerned about transatlantic demand for next summer.
The carrier announced on Wednesday that it was adding yet another new long-haul route to Europe — San Francisco to Barcelona — for the upcoming summer season, a carrier spokesperson told TPG.
United will launch this service on May 23, 2024, and the route will operate daily throughout the summer season onboard a Boeing 777-200ER, outfitted with 50 Polaris business-class lie-flats, 24 Premium Plus recliners, 46 Economy Plus seats and 156 standard economy seats.
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The 5,970-mile flight will operate through Oct. 25, 2024, United told TPG. Note that this new flight is already available for purchase on the carrier’s website.
The addition of flights from San Francisco brings the total number of nonstop destinations that United offers to and from Barcelona to four, complementing existing services to the city from Chicago, Newark and Washington. It’s the first time United has flown this route from San Francisco.
In total, United plans to operate 30% more flights to Spain during 2024 as compared to 2023. This includes service to five destinations in Spain, three of which — Malaga, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife — are exclusive to United. (No other U.S. airline flies to these three destinations.)
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The other two cities, Madrid and Barcelona, see much more competition, including on the San Francisco-to-Barcelona route, which is already operated by Spanish flag carrier Iberia.
Iberia plans to relaunch its service in the market in March 2024, Cirium schedules show, so United will face some competition on this new route.
That said, United operates a hub in San Francisco, so it should be able to appeal to locals based in the Bay Area, as well as those who are looking for one-stop options passing through the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
It’ll be interesting to see how United’s new flight fares, especially since American Airlines also announced a new service from its mega-hub in Dallas/Fort Worth to Barcelona for the upcoming summer season. While the two carriers won’t go head-to-head in the same market, they will compete for connecting traffic between the West Coast and Barcelona.
With all this additional capacity, we may see some attractive pricing in the coming months.
United’s new Barcelona flight piggybacks off of the airline’s splashy long-haul route announcement it made in October, when it announced an all-new destination — Faro, Portugal — and three new and resuming routes: Newark to Reykjavik, Newark to Brussels and Washington to Rome.
All of this growth comes as some analysts are sounding the alarm about transatlantic demand for next summer. Last week, airline analyst Helane Becker of TD Cowan wrote in a research note that airlines are adding too much capacity for next year after seeing record demand and strong pricing power in summer 2023.
United CEO Scott Kirby wasn’t phased by the report, though. “I think that they’re overstating the challenge for next summer, and mostly, there’s higher capacity growth in the winter,” he told TPG.
“We feel really good, still, about transatlantic demand,” Kirby added.
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