Call it a motivated decision: United Airlines is bringing back seasonal flights between Denver and London during Summer 2018. The flights will operate daily from March 24, 2018 through October 26, 2018 on a 787-8. This is the second intercontinental destination United will operate from Denver; it launched year-round flights to Tokyo in 2013.
As for motivation to bring back the route, it is hard to argue that Norwegian’s launch of service between Denver and Gatwick isn’t at least part of the reason this service is returning. Norwegian’s service launches in September 2017 with twice-weekly frequency, increasing to 3x weekly at the end of October. Both carriers compete with the long-running British Airways service on the city pair as well.
The two airlines operate very different business models to support these flights. United claims onward connections to “nearly 80 domestic destinations” while Norwegian has minimal feed at Gatwick. Both fly on 787s with similarly-fitted economy class cabins. United offers its Polaris business class while Norwegian flies a proper premium economy cabin as the best available option onboard. And then there’s the difference between daily service versus 3x weekly. Typically business travelers are more sensitive to less-than-daily route offerings. BA offers 747 service with 4 classes of service and daily flights, plus plenty of connectivity at Heathrow. Arguably it gives the most options on board and similar for connections, just at the other end of the trip.
Either way it is good news for route expansion in Denver,
though I have not yet figured out which other United hub will lose a frequency to account for the Heathrow landing slot needed by the new service.
United officials confirm that the new route will come at the expense of the sixth daily Newark flight:
We will reduce our summer frequency between New York/Newark (EWR) and London (LHR) six to five daily roundtrips, matching our winter schedule.
The company is still selling all 6 Newark flights but presumably that will clear up in the next day or two.
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Lufthansa has about 35 LHR slot pairs so they’ll probably lease it to United
I am also especially interested hear where the slots come from.
I’ll put my money on the #6 EWR-LHR frequency going away next year (only added once the #2 LAX flight was bagged), the timing appears to work. The flight is operating with a 757 on a lot of days this summer and is very close to other 767 frequencies.
That is the leading candidate, of course, and seems likely the one to go. But it is still in the schedule even as the new flight was added so hard to be certain that’s really what will happen. I’ve reached out to the company for clarification, though I doubt I’ll get it.
And just after I wrote that UA got back to me confirming that it will be a EWR slot “sacrificed” to add the DEN service.
I’m surprised they can’t justify winter service for skiing. I guess Europe has enough good skiing…
Probably seeing what they can get in the market before committing to year round service. Also a good test to see if they can hold against Norwegian, especially since Norwegian has announced service to Paris.
I think most Europeans stay on the other side of the pond for ski vacations.
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