United adds some international flights for September, but remains cautious

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A United Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

United Airlines on Friday said it plans to add a small amount of flights in September, staying cautious as the coronavirus pandemic continues to depress travel demand.

The Chicago-based airline’s September capacity will be 37% of year-ago levels and a 4 percentage point increase from its August 2020 schedule.

United has been among the most conservative airlines when it comes to restoring flights. A spike in demand recovery stalled after coronavirus cases surged in the U.S. and states like New York and New Jersey issued quarantine orders for arriving travelers.

“We continue to be realistic in our approach to building back our international and domestic schedules by closely monitoring customer demand and flying where people want to go,” Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president for international network and alliances, said in a release.

International capacity, which has been the hardest hit by broad travel restrictions around the world, will be 30% of United’s September 2019 schedule, through the airline is adding routes such as Chicago to Tel Aviv, Chicago to Hong Kong and Houston to Amsterdam, among others.

Domestic flying will be 40% of its September 2019 schedule. 

United said Thursday that it will consolidate its Embraer E145 flights used for short routes with just one regional partner, CommutAir, dropping airline ExpressJet.

“We have been communicating for several months that we expect to be a smaller airline in response to the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business,” United said in a statement. “In February, we took our first step to simplify our partner landscape and consolidate our E145 flying. We continue to evaluate further opportunities to improve the United Express product.”

United’s CEO Scott Kirby earlier this month told CNBC he expects revenue to reach no more than half of 2019 levels without a coronavirus vaccine.

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