United Airlines

United Airlines is among the big 3 carriers in the United States. The airline carries in excess of 144 million passengers per year and operates a fleet of 850+ aircraft. Let’s take a closer look at where the airline has come from and how it operates its flights nowadays.

How Did Modern United Come About?

The airline we all know today assumed its current form when in 2010 it merged with Continental Airlines. United maintained its name, while Continental maintained the logo, also seen on the carrier’s livery.

Which Are United Airlines Hubs?

So let’s start off with some operational information regarding United Airlines. The carrier currently operates 7 main hubs and a smaller one. The main hubs are:

  • Chicago O’Hare
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Newark
  • San Francisco
  • Washington Dulles

While the smaller hub is located on the island of Guam. The geographic location of the hubs determines how the airline uses the hub, as is the case with all major US carriers.

We can therefore classify the United Airlines hubs in the following categories:

  • Atlantic Hubs: Newark, Washington
  • Pacific Hubs: Los Angeles, San Francisco
  • American Hubs: Denver, Chicago, Houston

It must be noted that the American hubs have a stronger focus on flights to north and south America, however they also have a number of services to both Europe and the Pacific.

United has its hubs spread out across the country in such a way because it exclusively relies on the hub and spoke model.

Guam is the outlier among the airline’s hubs as it mainly serves a narrow body fleet of planes to neighbouring islands along with Japan and the Philippines. Also terminating in Guam is United’s island hopper service, one of the airline’s most unique flights.

How’s United Airline’s Fleet Structured?

First of all it must be noted that the airline has to be divided in main carrier and its subsidiaries. The subsidiaries are smaller carriers that operate United Airline’s extensive regional network. This regional traffic is necessary to feed traffic into the longer haul flights at the major hubs. We’ll look at which are the subsidiaries later down in the page.

The main airline fleet operates aircraft produced by both Boeing and Airbus. However the Airbus fleet is made up of only narrow body planes operating, at the moment, only flights in America. Things will change with the arrival of the Airbus A321XLR when they’ll be deployed on long and thin routes even across the Atlantic.

United Airline’s Wide Body Fleet

Boeing Logo Boeing777-20072
Boeing Logo Boeing777-30021
Boeing Logo Boeing787-812
Boeing Logo Boeing787-938
Boeing Logo Boeing787-1021
Boeing Logo Boeing767-30035
Boeing Logo Boeing767-40016

United Airline’s Narrow Body Fleet

Airbus Logo AirbusA319-10077
Airbus Logo AirbusA320-20092
Airbus Logo AirbusA321neo1
Boeing Logo Boeing737-70039
Boeing Logo Boeing737-800138
Boeing Logo Boeing737-900148
Boeing Logo Boeing737 MAX 868
Boeing Logo Boeing737 MAX 979
Boeing Logo Boeing757-20039
Boeing Logo Boeing757-30021

United’s post covid strategy saw the airline maintaining much of its older aircraft in its fleet in order to be able to deploy capacity rapidly once demand returned. Something very different to what American Airlines did in retiring all of its ageing planes. Therefore it’s quite common to still see United 757s around in airports.

United Airlines Boeing 737 on Takeoff

Will United Ever Have Airbus A350 Planes?

One of the big mysteries regarding United relates to its order of Airbus A350 airplanes. The airline placed long ago an order for the wide body plane, however it keeps pushing back the delivery date. The reason? Receiving the plane would both complicate the fleet operations by adding a different aircraft manufacturer to the mix and because the airline’s Boeing 777 aren’t all that old.

United was one of the last major airlines to order the Boeing 777-300ER and therefore isn’t in immediate need to replace these planes. Adding a new manufacturer’s planes in the wide body fleet would translate to huge training costs for both cabin and flight crew.

So taking all of that into account it is more likely that the A350 will never join the United Airlines fleet and that United will just stick with Boeing. Further clues in this direction are the massive orders for Boeing 787s that UA placed last year and expanded earlier this year.

Which Are United’s Subsidiaries?

United Airlines relies on a network of subsidiary companies in order to operate its extensive regional operations. These flights are more important than you might initially imagine. They serve the purpose of feeding traffic from secondary destinations onto the long range flights out of the main hubs. In essence they are the smallest spokes of the hub and spoke model.

What United has done is to divide the country into macro areas around the major hubs. Among its subsidiary feeder airlines are:

  • Air Wisconsin
  • CommutAir
  • GoJet Airlines
  • Mesa Airlines
  • Republic Airways

All of these carrier use a fleet solely comprised of regional jets.