United Announces Significant New International Flying From San Francisco, Loses the Expectations Game

United has announced a significant increase in international flying from San Francisco. Since CEO Oscar Munoz was talking to press, and it was being touted as ‘historic’, speculation abounded.

  • What would actually be historic? New world’s longest flight possibilities, or something that’s never been done before?
  • Significant service to Africa? There was lots of talk about Johannesburg, but that didn’t make sense to me given the basket case that their partner South African Airways is currently. Addis Ababa would have been more reasonable given the strength of Ethiopian but didn’t didn’t really seem historic.

Instead we get some new international flying from San Francisco.

  • Delhi, daily
  • A second Seoul flight, four times a week
  • Melbourne, Australia, three times a week
  • Two Toronto flights (they currently codeshare with Air Canada 3-4 times daily)
  • Amsterdam, daily

The only new transoceanic daily routes, then, are Delhi which Star Alliance member Air India flies 9 times a week and Amsterdam which is currently served daily from San Francisco by KLM. None of these are even new destinations for United. And Amsterdam was already announced months ago, but included here to make the news seem a bigger deal.

Copyright: jojjik / 123RF Stock Photo

Amsterdam, Melbourne, and Delhi will all be served by Boeing 787 aircraft featuring United’s pre-Polaris business class seats. Toronto would be exciting if it featured a premium product, but the flights will be operated by domestic Boeing 737-800s. In contrast Air Canada offers an internationally-configured Boeing 787 up to twice a day.

In addition their current seasonal flights between San Francisco and both Auckland, New Zealand and Papeete, French Polynesia go year-round.

Conrad Bora Bora Nui When It Was Part of Starwood

Here are the new flights that United Airlines is adding.

Flight From To Frequency Depart* Arrive* Aircraft
UA104 San Francisco New Delhi Daily 7:15 p.m. 12:45 a.m. +2 days 787-9
UA105 New Delhi San Francisco Daily 4:00 a.m. 6:10 a.m. 787-9
UA060 San Francisco Melbourne Tue/Thur/Sat 10:50 p.m. 9:40 a.m. +2 days 787-9
UA061 Melbourne San Francisco Mon/Thur/Sat 11:40 a.m. 6:50 a.m. 787-9
UA805 San Francisco Seoul Mon/Tue/Thur/Sat 4:55 p.m. 9:35 p.m. +1 day 777-200ER
UA806 Seoul San Francisco Mon/Wed/Thur/Sat 11:25 a.m. 6:10 a.m. 777-200ER
UA565 San Francisco Toronto Twice daily 10:25 a.m.  6:30 p.m.  737-800
11:00 p.m. 7:00 a.m+1 day
UA459 Toronto San Francisco Twice daily 7:15 a.m.  9:54 a.m. 737-800
7:21 p.m. 9:55 p.m.
UA968 San Francisco Amsterdam Daily 2:55 p.m. 10:20 a.m. +1 day 787-9
UA969 Amsterdam San Francisco Daily 2:50 p.m. 4:50 p.m. 787-9

More United flying is good for United customers looking to earn elite status and possibly upgrade. More flying generally is good for all customers, though some of the flying will trade off with other things that airline would have done with these aircraft.

This is a significant expansion of international options for United out of San Francisco, but far short of the ‘historic’ announcement that expectations had been built up to.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Historic? Historic would be United actually providing a decent flying experience, great customer support and a shiny new, comfortable fleet.

    Instead we get exotic new locations like New Delhi (as opposed to smelly, old Delhi) and Toronto – has hell frozen over?

  2. Yawn. Losing the expectations game is pretty much at for the purse with United…. this is yet just another example

  3. Well, OK, maybe they oversold it a bit, but a new US airline flight to India — especially one heading west from the West Coast — IS pretty historic! And it certainly shows that market is starting to rationalize (foreign subsidized seats are decreasing).

    The flight times seem pretty terrible however. That said, my limited experience with flights to India is that the flight times are usually terrible (even through Europe). Is there any better way to get from SFO to Delhi, other than in the middle of the night?

  4. Delhi and Melbourne – two destinations American and Delta don’t serve, and now United is adding to them.

    Who cares about 5 hours worth of ‘expectations’ – they’re doing routes AA and DL are too small ball to play.

    UNITED rising.

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