United’s response to Virgin America in Newark


It turns out that I was wrong about how United Airlines would respond to Virgin America announcing 3x daily service from Newark to both San Francisco and Los Angeles in Spring 2013. I figured maybe an extra flight or two and possibly some promos for extra frequent flyer points. United apparently has a different plan in mind. First there was the announcement of a San Francisco – Ft. Lauderdale route by United. A minor retaliation, really, but there it was. More recently, however, United has updated their schedule for service between the coasts. If this isn’t dumping inventory I don’t know what is.

Check out the timetables for the first week of June:

EWR-SFO

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SFO-EWR

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EWR-LAX

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LAX-EWR

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United is basically running hourly shuttle service on transcon flights. That’s nuts. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with pricing to try to fill those seats. There’s no way they’re going to be able fill them at their old price levels.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

21 Comments

  1. And so it continues with UA’s negative PRASM growth. This will kill yields, but I guess they are hoping to bankrupt Virgin America with this offensive once and for all?

  2. Sweet! I’ve never do a mileage run, but if the drop prices enough, I might just try one. Could be a great opportunity to see friends in LA.

  3. It’s not as if VX is in great shape… will be very interesting to see how they respond to UA’s (inevitably low) pricing

  4. Could this be why B6 never launched EWR-west coast? Curious how SFO-FLL will affect the LCC duopoly

    1. I don’t think that JetBlue ever reasonably considered running transcons from Newark, Noah. Why would they? With the feed at JFK there isn’t much reason to; EWR is all O/D traffic for them. Virgin America is looking at their feed on the wet coast as part of this move, I’m sure.

      I do agree that this will be a challenge for Virgin America to survive on a long-term basis. Then again, maybe United will eventually get bored with dumping the inventory and claw it back to more reasonable levels.

  5. I am surprised that they didn’t discontinue service due to VX’s entry to the market :rolleyes: a-la WN at HOU and UA dropped IAH-CDG (among others) and blamed it on the city.

    I know there are other factors at play there, but it is typical UA madness…

  6. Transcons on A319??? Ugh.

    United’s Airbus and 737 fleet are not even remotely competitive to the Virgin product or service.

    How about fewer flights per day with 76x or 777 with international BF service up front??? And younger, more service oriented FAs.

    1. United will have WiFi on the A319 fleet soon. Ditto the 73s. Otherwise the Y “product” on the 737s has live TV so it isn’t all that horrible. The VX F product is better by sure but no comp upgrades for elites and not as many seats up front. Plus, a couple of the LAX turns have the international 752 config.

      As for the fewer flights options on bigger planes, it turns out that customers often care about frequencies and flexibility rather than the bigger plane.

  7. this is great for me. SF and NY are my 2 hometowns, so this would be excellent mileage running while visiting a meaningful destination (unlike same day turnarounds to wichita)

  8. This reminds me of the ATA war in the early 2000s.

    Back then Silvers regularly upgraded on the transcons…

  9. At the peak of ps service, before the great recession hit in 2008, UA had close to hourly ps service on the transcon routes

    At the summer peak travel period, this many flights/seats isn’t out of the question, and UA does have flow traffic at both ends of the routes. But clearly there is a message for VX.

  10. Hub to hub transcons on a 319. Wow.. How “competitive” w/ basically zero IFE and zero upgrade chance

  11. The reaction isn’t too surprising, but the scale of the expansion is slightly. VX entering the market will drop prices as has already been shown, and when prices get halved, demand will obviously rise dramatically. Who do you think United would rather have the “new” passengers go to, VX or UA?

  12. @K – Do you really need airline provided IFE nowadays? More and more people have tablets/iPods with videos, music, etc. Or you could always read.

  13. Awesome! It’s been several years since I’ve visited NYC so I look forward to low fares and easy upgrades.

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