Faced with increasing competition at its San Francisco hub from Alaska Airlines/Virgin America, United Airlines just announced another growth spurt for its domestic SFO schedules this summer, focusing not on new destinations but on increased capacity in existing markets.
The escalating battle at SFO will mean more choice of flights for local travelers. Whether it will also mean lower fares remains to be seen.
It’s the second round of SFO expansion to be announced by United this year. In February, the company said it would add seven new domestic destinations from SFO in June and July. Less than two weeks later, Alaska/Virgin unveiled plans to start 13 new routes from SFO and San Jose in late summer.
And now United says it will schedule additional frequencies from SFO in eight domestic markets, and switch from regional jets to larger mainline planes in 10 others.
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On August 1, the carrier will boost San Francisco-Seattle frequencies to 10 a day, and on August 15 will increase schedules to nine flights a day to Portland, three a day to Philadelphia and Kansas City, and two a day to Albuquerque, Baltimore/Washington, Indianapolis and Nashville. United flies E175s to Albuquerque and Kansas City; the other routes use A319/320s.
Effective June 8, United said, it will switch from regional jets to 737s for service from San Francisco to Burbank and Palm Springs, and to A320s on routes from SFO to Dallas/Ft. Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as SFO-Calgary and SFO-Kansas City for the summer. On July 1, United switches to 737s for SFO-Sacramento flights, and for seasonal SFO-Bozeman service. And on August 15 it shifts to 737s for SFO-Fresno service.
Some of those same routes are being added by Alaska/Virgin, including mainline service from SFO to Philadelphia (starting August 31), Nashville (September 5), Indianapolis (September 26) and Baltimore/Washington (October 16); and new E175 service from SFO to Albuquerque and Kansas City effective September 18.
Earlier, United announced new year-round daily service beginning June 8 from SFO to Cincinnati, Detroit, Santa Rosa and Spokane, along with new seasonal service from SFO to Hartford and Kalispell, Montana. It also said it would add summer service and expand to year-round daily flights from SFO to New Orleans, a market that Alaska/Virgin will enter on September 21 with daily mainline flights.
Starting May 24, United will launch nonstop, seasonal service between San Francisco and Munich (MUC) using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
As we asked when Alaska made its big announcement, Where are all those new flights going to fit at SFO’s limited number of gates? That remains to be seen and I wonder if we’ll be faced with more frustrating waits on the tarmac waiting… hmmm
So whaddya think? Do more flights on bigger planes make you less likely to stray to the emerging Alaska/Virgin beast which has stated is desire to be the west coast’s preferred carrier? Please leave your comments below.