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United Airlines

This article is about the airline based in the United States. For other uses, see United Airlines (disambiguation) and United Airways (disambiguation).
United Airlines, Inc.

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Founded April 6, 1926 (April 6, 1926) (as Varney Air Lines)[1]
Commenced operations March 28, 1931[2]
AOC # CALA014A [3]
Frequent-flyer program MileagePlus
Airport lounge United Club
Alliance Star Alliance
Fleet size 707 (mainline only)
Destinations 375
Company slogan Fly the Friendly Skies
Parent company United Continental Holdings
Headquarters Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Key people
Revenue 11px US$ 38.901 billion (2015)[5]</td></tr>
Operating income 11px US$ 2.373 billion (2015)[6]</td></tr>
Net income 11px US$ 1.132 billion (2015)[6]</td></tr>
Total assets 11px US$ 37.353 billion (2015)[6]</td></tr>
Total equity 11px US$ 2.396 billion (2015)[6]</td></tr>
Employees 84,000 (2015)[6]</td></tr>

United Airlines, Inc., commonly referred to as "United", is an American major airline headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.[7][8] It is the world's largest airline when measured by number of destinations served.[9] In the late 1920s, just prior to the use of the United Airlines name, The Boeing Company, currently one of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers, operated a predecessor airline.

United operates out of nine airline hubs in the continental United States, Guam, and Japan.[10] George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston is United's largest passenger carrying hub handling 16.6 million passengers annually with an average of 45,413 passengers daily,[11] while Chicago-O'Hare is its largest hub in terms of daily departures. The company employs over 88,500 people while maintaining its headquarters in Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower).[12] Through the airline's parent company, United Continental Holdings, it is publicly traded under NYSEUAL with a market capitalization of over $18 billion as of September, 2014.[13]

United's main competitors in its domestic market are Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. United is using Continental's air operator's certificate and it surrendered its original certificate when the merger closed.[citation needed]

As of November 2013, United Express Airlines was awarded $31,660,211 in annual federal subsidies for Essential Air Services that it provided through Silver Airways and SkyWest Airlines to rural airports in the U.S. that would otherwise be uneconomical to serve.[14]


File:UAL Route Map 1940.jpg
United Air Lines route map, 1940

United Airlines traces its roots to Varney Air Lines air mail service of Walter Varney, who also founded Varney Speed Lines, from which Continental Airlines had originated. Founded in Boise, Idaho in 1926, the carrier flew the first Contract Air Mail flight in the U.S. on April 6, 1926, marking the first scheduled airline service in the country's history.[15][16][17] In 1927, aviation pioneer William Boeing founded his own airline, Boeing Air Transport to operate the San Francisco to Chicago air mail route,[18][19] and began buying other airmail carriers including Varney Airlines.[20] In 1929, Boeing merged his company with Pratt & Whitney to form the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC).[21]

In 1933, United began operating the Boeing 247,[22] the first all-metal airliner. It was able to fly a transcontinental flight in 20 hours, making it significantly faster than its predecessors.[23] After passage of the Air Mail Act in 1934, UATC separated into United Aircraft (the future United Technologies), the Boeing Airplane Company and United Air Lines.[24]

After World War II, United gained from a boom in customer demand for air travel, with its revenue per passenger-miles jumping five-fold in the 1950s, and continued growth occurring through the next two decades.[25]

File:United Airlines B-727 N7629U.jpg
United Boeing 727-200 in the Stars and Bars Friend Ship livery at Los Angeles International Airport in August 1974

In 1954 United Airlines became the first airline to purchase modern flight simulators which had visual, sound and motion cues for training pilots. Purchased for US$3 million (1954) from Curtiss-Wright, these were the first of today's modern flight simulators for training of commercial passenger aircraft pilots.[26]

United merged with Capital Airlines in 1961 and regained its position as the United States' largest airline. In 1968, the company reorganized, creating UAL Corporation, with United Airlines as a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1970, the UAL Corporation acquired Western International Hotels, and its name was later changed to Westin Hotel Company. The 1970s also saw economic turmoil, resulting in "stagflation" and labor unrest. The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, resulting in industry shakeups, further added to the carrier's difficulties in a loss-making period.[20]

In 1982, United became the first carrier to operate the Boeing 767, taking its first delivery of 767-200s on August 19.[27] In May 1985, the airline underwent a 29-day pilot strike over management's proposed "B-scale" pilot pay rates.[28] Then-company CEO Richard Ferris changed United's parent company's name from UAL Corporation to Allegis in February 1987, but following his termination, the company reverted to the name UAL Corp. in May 1988, and divested non-airline properties.[29][30]

File:United Boeing 747SP Maiwald.jpg
United Boeing 747SP in the 1974–1993 Rainbow Scheme

In 1985, United expanded dramatically by purchasing Pan Am's entire Pacific Division, giving it a prime Asian hub at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, and in 1991 purchased routes to London Heathrow Airport from ailing Pan Am, making it one of two US carriers permitted exclusive access to Heathrow under Bermuda II until "open skies" took effect in 2008 (American Airlines being the other, after it purchased TWA's Heathrow landing slots). The aftermath of the Gulf War and increased competition from low-cost carriers led to losses in 1991 and 1992.[20][31] In 1994, United's pilots, machinists, bag handlers and non-contract employees agreed to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), acquiring 55% of company stock in exchange for 15–25% salary concessions, making the carrier the largest employee-owned corporation in the world.[32] The carrier also launched a low-cost subsidiary in 1994, Shuttle by United a high frequency, west coast-based operation, in an attempt to compete with low-cost carriers; the subsidiary remained in operation until 2001.[20]

File:United Airlines logo (1973 - 2010).svg
The "Tulip" was the United Airlines logo from 1973 to 2010

In 1995, United became the first airline to introduce the Boeing 777 in commercial service.[33] In 1997, United co-founded the Star Alliance airline partnership. In May 2000, United announced a planned US$11.6 billion acquisition of US Airways, but withdrew the offer in July 2001 before the United States Department of Justice barred the merger on antitrust grounds.[20][34] May 2000 also saw a bitter contract dispute between United and its pilots' union over pay cuts and concessions to fund the ESOP and overtime work, causing summer flight cancellations until a salary increase was agreed upon.[35]

Three United aircraft, one with Star Alliance livery, at San Francisco International Airport in 2008

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, two of the four airliners hijacked and crashed by al-Qaeda members were United Airlines aircraft (United Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the south World Trade Center tower; United Airlines Flight 93 was crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against the hijackers). An airline industry downturn resulted, and coupled with economic difficulties, skyrocketing oil prices, and higher labor costs, the company lost US$2.14 billion in 2001. In the same year United applied for a US$1.5 billion loan guarantee from the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board established in the wake of the September 11 attacks.[36] After attempts to secure additional capital failed, UAL Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2002 and the ESOP was terminated.[37]

United's bankruptcy operations resulted in furloughing thousands of workers, closing all U.S. city ticket offices, cancelling several existing and planned routes, downsizing its Miami operations, closing maintenance bases, and fleet reductions. The carrier also negotiated cost cuts with employees, suppliers, and contractors, and terminated feeder contracts with United Express carriers Atlantic Coast Airlines and Air Wisconsin. The carrier launched a new, all coach, low-cost carrier named Ted in 2003, and a luxury "p.s." (for "premium service") coast-to-coast service on re-configured 757s in 2004. In 2005, United cancelled its pension plan in the largest such default in U.S. corporate history.[37]

File:United Airlines 777 N777UA.jpg
The first Boeing 777 in commercial service, United Airlines' N777UA, taking off from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 2005. This aircraft has since been repainted in the United-Continental livery.

In 2005, United announced it had raised US$3 billion in financing to exit bankruptcy and filed its Plan of Reorganization, as announced, on September 7, 2005. In late 2006, Continental Airlines participated in preliminary merger discussions with United.[37][38][39] On June 4, 2008, United announced it would close its Ted unit and reconfigure the subsidiary's aircraft for a return to mainline configuration.[40][41]

On April 16, 2010, United resumed merger talks with Continental Airlines. (The two airlines had previously discussed merging in 2008.)[42] The board of directors of both Continental and UAL Corporation's United Airlines reached an agreement to combine operations on May 2, 2010. The combined carrier would retain the United Airlines name, but use Continental's logo and livery, and Continental's CEO Jeff Smisek would head the new company. The merger was contingent upon shareholder and regulatory approval.[43]

File:United Airlines Boeing 777-200 Meulemans.jpg
N778UA, the second Boeing 777-200 to enter commercial service, bearing the post-merger livery, with the Continental globe and United name

The Continental–United merger was approved by the European Commission in July 2010 and by the US Justice Department on August 27, 2010.[44][45] On September 17, 2010, United's shareholders approved the merger deal with Continental Airlines.[46] Both carriers planned to begin merging operations in 2011 to form the world's biggest carrier.[47] On October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation completed its merger with Continental Airlines and changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc. The airline received a single operating certificate from the FAA on November 30, 2011.[48] On March 3, 2012, Continental and United merged their passenger service systems, frequent-flier programs, and websites which officially eliminated the Continental name and brand as far as the public was concerned.[49]


File:United Airlines Boeing 767-322ER.jpg
United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER in the Rising Blue livery used from 2004 until the merger with Continental, with 1997 Pentagram-designed font.[citation needed]
File:StarsAndBars United A320.jpg
A heritage United Airbus A320, painted in the 1970s "Stars and Bars", taxiing at Denver International Airport in June 2012

United Airlines is a combination of a number of air carriers that merged with each other starting in the 1930s with the most recent merger concerning Continental Airlines (which had previously merged with or acquired several airlines during its history) thus reflecting changes in focus of both United and the U.S. air transport market.[50][51][52]

Predecessor air carriers that form the present United Airlines include:

  • Boeing Air Transport (formed in 1927, merged into United Airlines in 1931)
  • Capital Airlines (formed in 1936, merged into United Airlines in 1961)
  • Continental Airlines (formed in 1934, merged into United Airlines in 2010)
    • Air Micronesia (formed in 1968 as a division of Continental Airlines, later became Continental Micronesia and merged into Continental Airlines in 2010.
    • New York Air (formed in 1980, merged into Continental Airlines in 1987)
    • Pioneer Airlines (formed in 1939, merged into Continental Airlines in 1955)
    • People Express Airlines (PEOPLExpress) (formed in 1981, merged into Continental Airlines in 1987)
    • Texas International Airlines (formed in 1944 as Trans-Texas Airways (TTa), Continental Airlines merged into Texas Air in 1982, with Texas Air changing its name to Continental)
  • National Air Transport (formed in 1925, merged into United Airlines in 1931)
  • Pacific Air Transport (formed in 1926, merged into United Airlines in 1931)
  • Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) (Formed in 1927, Pacific Division acquired by and merged into United in 1985, London Heathrow international traffic rights acquired by and merged into United in 1990. Pan Am was later forced to declare bankruptcy in 1991)
  • Varney Air Lines (formed in 1926, merged into United Airlines in 1931)

Many of these acquisitions and mergers were completed by Continental Airlines when this carrier was under the ownership and control of Texas Air Corporation from 1982 to 1987. During that time period, New York Air and Texas International Airlines (which were already owned by Texas Air Corporation before this company acquired Continental) were merged into Continental.[53] Texas Air Corporation subsequently acquired PEOPLExpress Airlines (which had previously acquired Frontier Airlines) and then folded these air carriers into Continental as well.[54] As for United, before merging with Continental it had acquired Capital Airlines in the 1960s and had also purchased Pan Am's Pacific Division as well as Pan Am's transatlantic route rights into London Heathrow Airport during the 1980s.[52]

Corporate identity

File:United Airlines old and new liveries.jpg
Two United Airlines Boeing 777s in different liveries at San Francisco International Airport. The 777 on the right, which bears the "Battleship Gray" scheme, is on its takeoff roll on 28L, while the one on the left with the "Rising Blue" paint has some more taxiing to get to the same runway. Both have since been repainted with the United-Continental colors.
File:N2690605012014LHR (11780255173).jpg
Boeing 787s feature a wavy gold stripe along the sides of the fuselage

Brand image

The pre-merger United logo, commonly nicknamed the "tulip", was first developed in the early 1970s after the airline commissioned designer Saul Bass to develop a new brand image.[55] The logo skillfully represented the airline's monogram as well as a modernized version of the airline's shield logo[56] which had been adopted in the 1930s, but fell out of use by the late 1960s. The ribbon-like rendering has also been said to symbolize the motion of flight.[57] Template:Citation needed span

Template:Citation needed span

In 2011, the newly merged United adopted Continental Airlines' 1991 logo, including the Continental globe, which had replaced the Tulip in the 1970s. The current United livery consists of a white upper fuselage, with a gold globe on a blue tailfin, and a gray underbelly. All mainline aircraft are now in this livery, Template:Citation needed span Boeing 787 Dreamliners are painted with a modified version of the livery, with a wavy gold stripe painted along both sides of the fuselage.

Historical logos


Marketing themes

Further information: United Airlines slogans

United resurrected its popular "Fly the Friendly Skies" slogan in September 2013.[58] Until September, 2013, the slogan, adopted after the merger of United and Continental in October 2010, was "Let's fly together". This replaced the slogan "It's time to fly" created in 2004. United's earliest slogan, "The Main Line Airway," emphasized its signature New York-Chicago-San Francisco route, and was replaced in 1965 with "Fly the Friendly Skies". The "friendly skies" tagline was in use until 1996 in its first iteration.[citation needed]

On September 20, 2013 United announced a return of the "Fly the Friendly Skies" slogan in an ad campaign to start the following day. The resurrected slogan will be accompanied by the "Rhapsody in Blue" theme song and a voice over provided by Matt Damon.[59]

United's theme song is George Gershwin's 1924 "Rhapsody in Blue", which it licensed from Gershwin's estate for US$500,000 ($2,072,222 in 2020) in 1976.[60] "Rhapsody" would have entered the public domain in 2000, but the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 extended its copyright another 20 years. United announced that it would continue to use "Rhapsody in Blue" as its theme song following the merger with Continental.[61]


United is a sponsor of six of Chicago's seven major professional sports teams—the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Fire, Sky and White Sox. It had previously served as a sponsor of the Chicago Cubs, however, the club signed a deal with United's O'Hare rival American Airlines in 2015.[62] United also flies the U.S. Olympic Team, Denver Broncos, Golden State Warriors, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Chiefs, L.A. Angels, L.A. Dodgers, St. Louis Rams, SF 49ers, SF Giants, San Jose Sharks, Sporting KC, Washington Capitals, Washington Nationals, Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards. The Blackhawks and Bulls play their games in the United Center, which the airline holds the naming rights to until 2033.

United has been the official airline of the Denver Broncos since 1996.

Through its merger with Continental, United also became the official airline of the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants,[63] New Jersey Devils, Houston Dynamo, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans, Houston Astros, and all of the New York Road Runners races (which after the merger, later became the title sponsor of the New York City Half Marathon).[64]

United sponsors all Tuesday subscription concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.[65][66]

Corporate affairs


File:Willis Tower.jpg
United Continental Holdings World Headquarters, Willis Tower. United is the building's single largest occupant.[67]

In 2007, United Airlines moved its headquarters and its 350 top executives from its headquarters at 1200 East Algonquin Road in suburban Elk Grove Township to 77 West Wacker Drive after considering alternate locations in Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California.[68][69] The Elk Grove Village campus was renamed an Operations Center and United Airlines consolidated several of its offices in the suburbs of Chicago into the Elk Grove Village campus.[70]

After the City of Chicago submitted a US$35 million (2010) incentive, including US$10 million (2010) in grants for United to move its remaining employees to Chicago, United proceeded to schedule a move of about 2,500 employees out of the former Elk Grove Township headquarters and into Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) in downtown Chicago. Monica Davey of The New York Times said that the move may have contributed to United's decision to base the newly merged United Continental Holdings out of Chicago instead of Houston.[71] On May 31, 2012, United opened its new operations center at Willis Tower in downtown Chicago.[72] The company occupies 16 floors of the Willis Tower.[67]

Other facilities

UAL, United Airline's parent company prior to its merger with Continental Airlines, previously held majority ownership stakes in several major travel and leisure companies. UAL's former subsidiaries include international hotel chains Westin Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Hotels Corporation as well as global car rental company Hertz. UAL sold or spun off most of its assets not related to its core airline operations during the 1980s and '90s.

United formerly owned the Waikiki Seaside Hotel, a hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii which was used by its flight crews and was sold in February 2012.[73]

Environmental strategy

File:United Airlines - N14219 - Flickr - skinnylawyer (1).jpg
A United Boeing 737-800, the type used on the carrier's first renewable jet fuel flight.

On August 23, 2011, United announced a conversion to paperless flight decks and deployed 11,000 iPads to all United pilots. Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds, replaced approximately 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information in a pilot's flight bag. The electronic flight bags (EFBs) replaced conventional flight bags full of paper materials that contains an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot, and as a first for major network carriers, provide pilots with paperless aeronautical navigational charts through an iPad app. The green benefits of moving to EFBs include reductions in, paper use, printing, and fuel consumption. Distribution of the iPads began in early August 2011, and all pilots were using them by the years end.[74]

On November 7, 2011, United Airlines flew the world's first commercial aviation flight on a microbially derived biofuel using Solajet™, Solazyme's algae-derived renewable jet fuel, and fueled with 40 percent Solajet and 60 percent petroleum-derived jet fuel. This was operated by the "Eco-Skies" Boeing 737-800 aircraft on a flight from Houston to Chicago.[75]

On July 12, 2012, United announced an order for 100 Boeing 737 MAX 9s, a new, more fuel efficient version of the Boeing 737 family. These aircraft will be used to replace the less fuel efficient domestic fleet of Boeing 757-200s.[76]

On January 15, 2013, Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) announced that United had placed an order to retrofit its existing Boeing Next Generation 737s' Blended Winglets with APB's new Split Scimitar Winglet. The program consists of retrofitting 737NGs' winglets by replacing the aluminum winglet tip cap with a new aerodynamically shaped "Scimitar" winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar tipped Ventral Strake. This modification demonstrated significant aircraft drag reduction over the basic Blended Winglet configuration. The new APB winglet technology was estimated to save United more than $250 million per year in jet fuel costs fleet wide.[77]


All United Airlines pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. A new Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified by a majority of the United/Continental pilots on December 15, 2012,[78][79] which struck down a scope clause that disallowed Continental from outsourcing the flying of regional jets with 70 or more passenger seats.[80]

Animal transport

In 2013, after pressure from PETA, United announced that it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories. United was the last North American passenger airline to transport these animals to laboratories.[81][82]


Current hubs

United operates eight domestic hubs and one international hub.[83]

  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport – The biggest hub in terms of flights and United's hub for the Midwest.[84] About 15.1 million passengers travel on United through ORD every year, which is about 41,414 people per day.[84] This makes United the busiest airline at the airport. United's headquarters are also in Chicago. O'Hare was previously United Airline's biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Denver International Airport – The fourth biggest hub in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's hub for the West.[86] About 10.3 million passengers pass through DIA every year on United, which is about 28,333 people per day.[86] As of March 2015, United has about 43.37% of the market share at Denver International, making it the airport's biggest airline.[87] DIA was previously United's second biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Houston George Bush International Airport – The second biggest hub in terms of flights and United's hub for the South and gateway to Latin America.[88] About 16.1 million passengers fly through IAH on United every year, or about 44,196 people per day.[88] United currently has about 78% of the seat share at Houston Intercontinental, making it the airport's largest airline.[89] Houston was previously Continental's biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Los Angeles International Airport – The seventh biggest hub for Untied in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's secondary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia.[90] About 6.6 million passengers fly through LAX on United every year, or about 16,390 people per day.[90] United has about 17.02% of the market share at LAX, making it the second biggest carrier at the airport.[91] LAX was previously United's fifth biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Newark Liberty International Airport – The third biggest hub for United in terms of number of flights and destinations and United's primary hub for the East Coast and gateway to Europe.[92] About 12.2 million passengers fly on United through Newark every year, or about 33,495 people per day.[92] United controls about 81% of the slots at Newark and carries about 68% of all passengers at the airport, making it the airport's largest airline.[93][94] Newark was previously Continental's second biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • San Francisco International Airport – The fifth biggest hub in terms of number of flights, and sixth biggest in terms of number of destinations, and United's primary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia.[95] About 10.1 million passengers fly through SFO every year on United, which is about 27,746 people per day.[95] United has about 46.1% of the market share at San Francisco International, making it the biggest airline at the airport.[96] San Francisco was previously United's third biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Washington Dulles International Airport – The sixth biggest hub in terms of number of flights, and fifth biggest in terms of number of destinations, and United's secondary hub for the East Coast and gateway to Europe.[97] United has about 65.2% of the market share at Washington Dulles, making it the largest airline at the airport.[98] About 6.5 million passengers fly through Dulles every year on United, which is about 17,824 people per day.[97] Dulles was previously United's fourth biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]
  • Guam A. B. Won Pat International Airport – The eighth biggest hub in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's hub for the Pacific.[83] Guam was previously Continental's fourth biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.
  • Narita International Airport (Tokyo, Japan) – The ninth biggest hub in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's hub for Asia.[83] Narita was previously United's sixth biggest hub before the United-Continental merger.[85]

Former hubs

  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – United Airlines maintained an secondary East Coast hub in Cleveland until 1985, when they began to move the hub to Washington Dulles. By the time the transition finished in 1987, Continental Airlines made the airport its then fifth hub as their first Midwest hub. United kept Cleveland as a hub following the United-Continental merger. Four years after the merger on February 1, 2014, United announced it was dehubbing Cleveland due to the hub not being profitable.[99] The airport was officially dehubbed on June 5, 2014. Other reasons for the dehubbing include the proximity of Chicago (315 miles away) and Washington (217 miles away), which were bigger hubs, and the lack of any flights out of North America.
  • Miami International Airport – United bought Pan Am's international routes from Miami to Europe and Latin America in 1991. In May 2004, United dehubbed Miami International and moved its flights to its main hub in Chicago.[100]
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport – United opened an East Coast hub at JFK in October 1959 with the construction of Terminal 7 (later renumbered Terminal 9). In 1991, United vacated the terminal and became a tenant at Terminal 7, which was owned by British Airways. On October 30, 2000, United and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that United was going to renovate Terminal 5 as part of a $10 billion expansion project at the airport and use the terminal as their new East Coast hub.[101] These plans were later cancelled as a fallout from the September 11 Attacks, which led to United dehubbing JFK as the demand for airlines dropped.
  • Portland International Airport – United operated a small hub at PDX from Concourse E. Portland later lost hub status and traffic was moved to San Francisco International Airport.
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – United Airlines used SeaTac as a hub starting in 1947, when they moved their operations to the airport from Boeing Field. Traffic to the airport was slowly moved to Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport during the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Piedmont Triad International Airport (Greensboro, North Carolina) – Continental Airlines developed a fifth hub at Piedmont in 1993 for the launch of Continental Lite, a low-cost carrier owned by Continental. The hub closed along with the Continental Lite program in 1995.[102]
  • Stapleton International Airport – Both United and Continental operated a hub from Stapleton, with both hubs lasting from 1972 until the airport closed in 1995. United decided to stay in Denver and relocate its hub to Denver International Airport, the airport which had just been built to replace Stapleton, while Continental decided against keeping a hub in Denver.[103]


UA hubs listed by departures including United Express (2nd Quarter 2015)
Rank Airport Flights Destinations
1 Chicago-O'Hare, Illinois 583[84] 180[84]
2 Houston, Texas 554[88] 180[88]
3 New York/Newark, New Jersey 381[92] 158[92]
4 Denver, Colorado 379[86] 141[86]
5 San Francisco, California 287[95] 95[95]
6 Washington-Dulles, Virginia 239[97] 114[97]
7 Los Angeles, California 175[90] 64[90]
8 Guam 30 22
9 Tokyo, Japan 18 11

United Airlines flies to 235 domestic mainline destinations and 138 international destinations in 60 countries across Asia, Americas, Europe, Oceania, and Africa including cities only served by United Express, from 9 hubs. The carrier, along with British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and South African Airways, is one of the few airlines that fly to all six inhabited continents.

Route network

United provides worldwide service to Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. United operates an extensive domestic route network from its seven domestic hubs and is a leading U.S. carrier between Hawaii and the continental U.S. United also operates international hubs in Guam and Tokyo.

In 1988, the bilateral (though not reciprocal)[citation needed] treaty with Japan was amended to allow additional routes between the two countries. United's application to fly from Chicago to Tokyo, a significant gap in its routes previously, was approved.[104] On October 18, 2013, United filed an application with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to fly from San Francisco to Tokyo's Haneda Airport, the airline plans to launch flights in October 2014.[105] On February 28, 2014, the USDOT tentatively granted approval for the airline's San Francisco-Haneda route;[106] which launched on October 26, 2014.[107]

United's international expansion is focused on Asia and Latin America. United is the leading U.S. carrier to the People's Republic of China in terms of capacity, with nonstop flights to Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai, as well as the former British territory of Hong Kong, from its hubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In September 2007, United was granted a route from San Francisco to Guangzhou (Never launched).[108] On May 20, 2011, the airline was granted service from Los Angeles to Shanghai that launched.[109] On June 9, 2014, the airline introduced nonstop service to Chengdu from San Francisco, operated with a 787.[110]

United's former tulip logo as seen at its Denver hub

United inaugurated service to Bahrain on April 18, 2010,[111] and Accra, Ghana on June 20, 2010, which was the carrier's first African destination.[112] With this addition, United Airlines provided service to all continents except Antarctica. United's service to Accra was extended to Lagos, Nigeria (the carrier's second African destination) on December 12, 2010,[113] with nonstop service commencing on November 16, 2011, and terminating on December 18, 2011 (Lagos is now served with a non-stop flight from Houston).[114] United later terminated services to Accra altogether on July 3, 2012.[114] United also launched service from Washington D.C. to Doha, Qatar via Dubai on May 1, 2012.[115] United also terminated services to Denmark in September 2012. United is the only US Carrier with service to Oslo, Hamburg, and Berlin. [114]

Codeshare agreements

United Express Embraer ERJ 145 at Hermanos Serdán International Airport (PBC); Puebla, Mexico

In addition to its Star Alliance and United Express partnerships, United codeshares and/or has marketing agreements with the following airlines as of May 2015:[116]



United Airlines operates 707 mainline aircraft. As of June 2015, its fleet consists of the following:[117][118][119][120][121]

United Airlines Mainline Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Options Passengers Notes
F B E+ E Total Ref
Airbus A319-100 55 11[122] 14[122] 8 42 78 128 [123]
Airbus A320-200 97 12 42 96 150 [124]
Airbus A350-1000 35[125] 40
Deliveries begin in 2018.[126]
Boeing 737-700 38 2 12 40 66 118 [127]
12 112 124 [128]
Boeing 737-800 130 20 132 152 [129]
16 48 90 154 [130]
16 48 102 166 [131]
16 54 96 166 [132]
14 141 155 [133]
Boeing 737-900 12 20 51 96 167 [134]
20 42 117 179 [135]
Boeing 737-900ER 118 12[136] 20 51 96 167 [134]
20 42 117 179 [137]
20 39 120 179 [138]
Boeing 737 MAX 9 100[136]
Deliveries begin in 2018.[139]
Boeing 747-400 23 12 52 70 240 374 [140]
Boeing 757-200 56 24 50 108 182 [141] Older aircraft being phased out.
16 45 108 169 [142]
15 28 42 72 142 [143] United p.s. configuration.
Boeing 757-300 21 24 57 132 213 [144] Largest operator of the 757-300.
Boeing 767-300ER 35 6 26 71 80 183 [145]
30 49 135 214 [146]
Boeing 767-400ER 16 39 63 140 242 [147]
Boeing 777-200 19 32 98 214 344 [148] Launch customer. Largest operator of the 777-200.
8 40 110 108 266 [149] International fleet will be transitioned and reconfigured for domestic use.[150]
Boeing 777-200ER 55 8 40 113 108 269 [151] Largest operator of the 777-200ER.
50 72 145 267 [152]
Boeing 777-300ER 10[136]
Deliveries begin in 2016.[153]
Boeing 787-8 12 35 36 70 113 219 [154] Remaining orders were converted to the 787-10.
Boeing 787-9 6 10[136] 48 88 116 252 [155] 10 orders were converted to the 777-300ER.[150]
Boeing 787-10 27[136]
Deliveries begin in 2018.[156]
Total 707 208 75

United received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner on September 22, 2012, becoming the first U.S. carrier to do so.[157] The airline announced plans to place the Boeing 787 into scheduled passenger service effective November 4, 2012, on U.S. domestic routes from Houston (IAH) to Chicago (ORD), New York Newark (EWR),Washington-Dulles (IAD) and San Francisco (SFO) prior to operating the Dreamliner in scheduled international service. However several Dreamliner battery incidentsBoeing_787_Dreamliner_battery_problems caused all 787s to be grounded for four months from January 2013; and United's 787s did not resume operations until mid-May that year.[158] United is also the North American launch customer for the 787-9 and 787-10, stretched versions of the base 787-8 model.

Fleet gallery

Historical fleet

United Airlines Retired Fleet[159]
Aircraft Year retired Replacement Notes
Boeing 80AB 1934 Launch customer
Boeing 40A 1937 Launch customer[160]
Boeing 247 1942 Launch customer, all 59 of the base model were built for United[161]
Ford Trimotor
Laird Swallow J-5,,1408,00.html <<<<-- broken link Single seat biplane used to carry US Air Mail (CAM 5) by predecessor Varney Air Lines.
Douglas DC-3
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser 1954
Douglas DC-7 1964
Convair 340 1968
Vickers Viscount 1969 Boeing 727 & 737 Former Capital Airlines aircraft. Only mainline turboprop aircraft type ever operated by United.
Douglas DC-6 1970
Sud Aviation Caravelle 1970 Boeing 727 & 737 Only U.S. operator of this French-manufactured intermediate range twinjet
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar[162] 1989 McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Purchased from Pan American World Airways. Sold to Delta Airlines
Boeing 720 1976 Boeing 727 Launch Customer.
Douglas DC-8 1992 Boeing 757-200 Largest DC-8 operator.
Fleet included stretched DC-8 "Super 60" series (DC-8-61) and re-engined "Super 70" series (DC-8-71) aircraft.
United accomplished the re-engining of its Super DC-8 aircraft in-house via its maintenance dept.
Boeing 727-100 1993 Boeing 737-500 Launch customer
Boeing 747SP 1995 Boeing 747-400 Purchased from Pan American World Airways
Boeing 747-100 1999 Boeing 777-200/200ER
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 2001 Boeing 777-200/200ER Launch Customer. Fleet included original DC-10-10 variant and larger, longer range DC-10-30 variant. One crashed in 1989.
Boeing 747-200 2000 Boeing 747-400
Boeing 727-200 2001 Airbus A320 family
Boeing 737-200 2001 Airbus A320 family Launch customer
Boeing 737-300 2009 Boeing 737-900ER
Boeing 737-500[163] 2009, 2013 Boeing 737-900ER
Boeing 767-200ER[164] 2005, 2013 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
File:United Airlines DC-10 N1803U.jpg
United Airlines and American Airlines were both launch customers for the DC-10, August 1974



File:United Airlines B747-400 first class.jpg
United Global First Suite on the Boeing 747.

GlobalFirst is United's international first class product, and is offered on all Boeing 747-400s, as well as all three class configured Boeing 767-300ERs and Boeing 777-200ERs. A standard GlobalFirst suite is Script error: No such module "convert". long and reclines into a fully flat bed. All seats are equipped with a personal LCD television with Audio-Video-on-Demand (AVOD), an adjustable headrest, an iPod adapter, a US-style 120-volt power outlet, a large tray table, and other amenities.[165] United launched a new turn-down service which is available on all long-haul international flights.[166]


File:United Airlines B767-300ER business class.jpg
United BusinessFirst with a front/rear facing configuration on a Boeing 767-300.
File:United 747-400 Business Class Upper Deck 2005.JPG
BusinessFirst on the upper deck of a Boeing 747-400 as it looked prior to the introduction of flat-bed seats

BusinessFirst is offered on all wide-body aircraft (with the exception of domestically-configured 777-200s), as well as all internationally configured Boeing 757-200s. BusinessFirst passengers check in at separate counters and can use priority security screening where available. In-flight service includes pre-departure beverages, table linens and multi course meals designed by United's Congress of Chefs on international flights.[167] Passengers are also given priority with boarding and baggage handling and access to the United Club and other airline lounges. The longest domestic routes (such as the 9-10 hour long flights from the East Coast to Hawaii) utilize BusinessFirst equipped aircraft, however these flights are sold as United First but do not allow for complimentary premier upgrades. BusinessFirst also is equipped with lie-flat beds. On legacy United aircraft (registration numbers ending in "-UA"), BusinessFirst is configured with alternating rows facing backwards instead of forwards. On aircraft acquired during the merger with Continental, and on newly delivered Boeing 787s, all BusinessFirst seats face forwards.

Other domestic routes, especially hub-to-hub service and certain non "United p.s." transcontinental flights regularly see internationally configured aircraft with BusinessFirst (and sometimes GlobalFirst) for operational reasons (such as transferring international aircraft from one hub to another). While the physical seats and entertainment are the same as on international flights, the service, catering and other amenities are the same as in domestic first class. Unlike routes marketed as "BusinessFirst" and United p.s., these flights are eligible for complimentary premier upgrades.

United p.s.

Main article: United p.s.

p.s. (short for "Premium Service") is a sub-brand for transcontinental flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco, as well as one seasonal service between Los Angeles and Boston. Initially launched in 2004, these flights utilize specially configured Boeing 757-200s, with 180-degrees-flat BusinessFirst seats. The premium cabin also features international style catering, while all seats have access to inflight wi-fi, on demand entertainment, and power outlets. BusinessFirst passengers also have access to the United Clubs at JFK, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.[168] The previous iteration of p.s. featured three cabins, with angled lie flat seating in United First and the older style business class recliners with footrests in United Business. The refurbishment was completed on December 2, 2013.[169]

United p.s. routes are not eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades, although MileagePlus members can upgrade using Regional Premier Upgrade e-certificates, Global Premier Upgrade e-certificates, or miles.[170]

United First and United Business (short haul)

United First is offered on all domestically configured aircraft. When such aircraft are used on international services such as services to Canada, Central America and most Caribbean destinations, the premium cabin is branded as United Business. The cabin features a seat similar to the original international BusinessFirst seat, but without the personal reading lamps, entertainment units, or legrests. The seats have a Script error: No such module "convert". pitch (37" on newer A319s and 737s and 39" on newer A320s due to the new slimline seats, and 53" on domestic configured 777s), and passengers receive priority boarding and baggage handling, pre-departure beverages, free meals and separate check-in desks.[171]

Economy Plus

Economy Plus is available on all aircraft in the domestic and international fleet, as well as United Express aircraft equipped with a first class cabin (CRJ700s, Embraer E-Jets and some Bombardier Q400s). Economy Plus seats are located in the front few rows, including bulkheads, and overwing exit rows of the economy cabin and have 2 inches more recline and at least 5 inches of additional seat pitch (6 inches on some aircraft) totaling 4-7 inches of recline (aircraft dependent) and approximately 36 inches of pitch (35 inches on newer configured Airbus A319/A320s and 37 inches on Boeing 787s due to the economy pitch on those aircraft). Economy Plus is available for free to all MileagePlus Elite members. 1K, Platinum and Gold members may select an Economy Plus seat when booking. Silver members can select an Economy Plus seat at check-in.[citation needed] It can also be purchased depending upon availability by other passengers. United kept the "Economy Plus" seating for the combined carrier after the merger.[172]

Economy Class

File:United Airlines A320-232 cabin Iwelumo.jpg
United Economy cabin on an Airbus A320.

Economy seats are available on all aircraft, and usually have a pitch of 31 inches (30 inches on aircraft refurbished with Slimline seats, and 32 inches on Boeing 787s) and a recline of 2-5 inches (aircraft dependent). Economy seats on Boeing 767, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787s feature an adjustable headrest and a personal television at the back of each seat. United Economy's in-flight entertainment system on Boeing 767 aircraft features nine channels of entertainment on loop on a Script error: No such module "convert". screen. All Boeing 777 and Boeing 787s feature AVOD with a Script error: No such module "convert". touch screen. On Boeing 747-400s, entertainment is provided by main-screen TVs above the aisles and on flip down screens above the seats. Food and snacks are available for purchase on domestic, Caribbean, and some Latin America flights. Meals are complimentary on all other international flights. Shortly after takeoff, passengers are served cocktail snacks and free non-alcoholic drinks. Alcoholic drinks are not complimentary for economy passengers on all flights.[173] On flights with meals, the main meal consists of a salad/appetizer, a choice of hot entrées and dessert. On longer flights, a light pre-arrival meal is offered.

Frequent flyer services


Main article: MileagePlus

MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program for United Airlines, Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia.[174]

From its inception until June 29, 2011, United's frequent flier program was known as Mileage Plus. Following United's merger with Continental Airlines, United retained Mileage Plus as the frequent flier program of the new United and, subsequently, renamed the program MileagePlus.

United Club

Main article: United Club

The United Club is the airline lounge associated with United Airlines and United Express carriers. The United Club replaced the former United Red Carpet Club and Continental Airlines Presidents Club prior to the merger with Continental.


Among United's subscriptions that passengers pay an annual fee for:

  • Free bag check annual subscription[175]
  • Economy Plus access annual subscription[175]

Incidents and accidents

1930s NC13304 Flight 6 Flight 4[176] NC13323[177] NC13355[178]
1940s Flight 521 Flight 608 Flight 624
1950s Flight 129 Flight 610 Flight 615 Flight 409 Flight 629 Flight 718 Flight 736
1960s Flight 826 Flight 859 Flight 297 Flight 823 Flight 389 Flight 227 Flight 266
1970s Flight 553 Flight 2860 Flight 173
1980s Flight 811 Flight 232
1990s Flight 585 Flight 826
2000s Flight 175 Flight 93

See also

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