United will launch Delhi to San Francisco non-stop flights

United had earlier issued a media advisory to make a historic announcement today. As we speculated, one of the routes will come to fruition. Earlier this year, for the first time in 8 years, United expanded capacity in the Indian market with the introduction of Boeing 77W on Mumbai to Newark route.

Today, United announced a slew of new routes out of San Francisco. United already has a dominating presence at San Francisco, and they are making sure it stays the same. United will launch the following routes in the coming days while adding capacity on other routes.

  • Daily New Delhi to San Francisco
  • Daily Melbourne to San Francisco
  • 2x Daily Toronto to San Francisco
  • Daily Amsterdam to San Francisco
  • Second Daily to Seoul to San Francisco
  • Year-round Tahiti to San Francisco
  • Year-round Auckland to San Francisco
United Airlines New Delhi to San Francisco

United Airlines San Francisco expansion

United Airlines New Delhi to San Francisco

United’s new International routes out of San Francisco

United Airlines San Francisco to Auckland

United’s year-round extension out of San Francisco

New Delhi to San Francisco route

United will operate a seasonal daily service between Delhi and San Francisco next year onwards. The first flight is scheduled to take off on December 5, 2019. The route will be operated by a premium heavy Boeing 787-9. United’s Boeing 789s features 48 Business Class seats, 88 Economy Plus seats and 116 Economy seats.

The Boeing 787-9 doesn’t feature the new Polaris business class seats yet. Instead, it has the BE Aerospace Diamond seats. The Economy class is in a 3-3-3 layout. United does have 13 Boeing 787-9 on order to be delivered in 2020 which may feature the new Polaris Business class seats.

UA104 SFO1915-0045(+2)DEL 789
UA105 DEL0400-0610SFO 789

Both AI173 AND UA105 will depart New Delhi at the same time for San Fransisco.

The Delhi/San Francisco route has witnessed significant growth in recent years. Delhi San Francisco Air India flights were launched to operate three times a week in December 2015 and then doubled to 6 times a week in November 2016. Air India further increased it to nine times a week in March 2018.

Now with United’s new daily frequency, Star Alliance carriers will have 16 weekly frequencies on New Delhi to San Francisco route. This will be the largest India to USA nonstop route regarding frequencies. This is impressive for a route that witnessed it’s first flight just three years back. The icing on the cake would be a synergy between Air India and United Airlines. United does not coordinate with Air India at the moment.

Others?

Wonder when will we hear from Delta Airlines who were supposed to announce a new non-stop flight to India in 2019. And let’s see how American Airlines reacts to this announcement.

The last time Air India added capacity on New Delhi to San Francisco, we witnessed Etihad Airways pulling out of Abu Dhabi / San Francisco route completely. With this new capacity addition, will there be any impact on Etihad’s neighbour(s)? Let’s see if they upgrade the New Delhi to Newark route to a Polaris equipped 77E shortly.

Bottomline

United’s new daily flight indicates the size of their ambition for India. They currently have daily flights from Newark to Mumbai and New Delhi. The new route is presently seasonal but we may see it upgraded to year-round at a later stage. Only Star Alliance carriers operate nonstop flights between India and USA.

Are you excited for New Delhi to San Fransisco on United? Would you switch from Air India in that case?

Comments

  1. Well I am not surprised that UA has launched a non stop service and i believe it will be a year round non stop in no time. If AC can make delhi Vancouver work and AI can turn a profit on a long haul route, UA should be able to laugh their way to the bank on this one considering their corporate accounts in the US and their ability to offer connectivity from SFO. I only wonder what took them so long and why are they launching it as a seasonal service. They can obliterate air india out of the market.

  2. Karan,

    I think the term “seasonal” should be in the title of this post, to make this fact clear to readers. Rather, “seasonal” is buried deep in the body text.

    The emphasis on the amount of Star Alliance service between DEL and SFO is rather unnecessary because it is rather insignificant. That’s because the major alliances these days are simply loose marketing vehicles, not true “alliances” in any sense.

    Sure, there are mileage-earning and burning opportunities, lounge access, etc for you and me. But, within the three major alliances, and sometimes extending beyond them, there are much closer partnerships of various types. And, within the three major alliances, there are plenty of tensions among some carriers with as little cooperation as possible.

    You bemoan the lack of partnership between UA and AI as if it is to be expected because they are in the same alliance, but really, there is no requirement of any sort. The only significant co-operation requirement within Star Alliance is for members to interline with one another. The linked post with all those suggestions for AI to cooperate further with UA, LH, etc. was essentially a futile exercise, and blaming AI was uncalled for. Other airlines simply have different ideas and interests than AI. Cooperation occurs when all parties involved find mutual benefit.

    The primary reasons for the rapid expansion on the DEL-SFO route are its rapid growth in passenger numbers that are willing to pay a premium for nonstop service, along with aircraft that can perform the route given its length. Range is a challenge because of the inability to cross Xinjiang, which the PRC government does not allow any airline to do, and need to avoid the high-elevation Himalayan region. In other words, it is NOT a Great Circle route in either direction. Rather, it is circuitous, and AI did well in evolving the actual routing–now essentially a round-the-world route. There were many technical challenges and permissions required along the way, particularly involving overflight of the Arctic region. Still, they kept at it and made it a success. When it first launched, I doubt that AI expected the route to do so well.

    There is really no comparison with American or Delta. United has the two major hubs with both quantity and quality (i.e., volume and yield) to make nonstop flights work–EWR and SFO.

    American has de-emphasised ORD as an international gateway, and the only year-round intercontinental flights are to LHR (lots), NRT (now reduced to 3x weekly), and looks like CDG is back to year-round. Not a candidate for India. JFK is now mostly for select high-yield O&D routes, and it’s noticeably shrunk as an AA base. Not a candidate either.

    So we are left with DFW and PHL as gateways. (No serious person would suggest MIA or even LAX.) Then, we have to ensure that there are sufficient business travellers that can drive a premium for nonstop service from one of these cities to DEL or perhaps BOM. I doubt we are there yet.

    Delta has tentatively announced a BOM route, which could be either from ATL or JFK, but nothing has come about since then. One reason could be fuel prices, which have spiked and come down a bit. Another reason could be the precarious condition of Jet Airways, whose partnership would be necessary. Another reason could be the recently launched AI nonstop on BOM-JFK.

    The basic challenge for Delta is that NYC is it’s a split hub for them (LGA/JFK). Though the O&D is enormous and should have plenty of premium passengers, regional feed is necessary. (EWR has feed as it is a domestic hub as well as international gateway for United.) Then there is the enormous indirect competition at JFK. ATL is another story. The connectivity is amazing but the O&D is nothing much. A few years ago it was dead last, 10 out of the top 10 O&D cities to India. Premium traffic as well would be a fraction of JFK’s.

    If you really think about it, just four major US airports can, without question, support nonstop service to an Indian gateway: JFK, SFO, EWR, and ORD to some degree. AI serves IAD @ 3x weekly, but it is essentially a political service. Beyond these, the justification is much, much harder. For example, LAX-DEL is about half the market size as SFO-DEL, plus it’s an extra hour of flying. AI did very well by increasing frequency on SFO-DEL to 9x weekly rather than launch LAX-DEL at 3x weekly.

    Perhaps DL can make ATL work with the strength of its hub, and perhaps AA can make DFW with the strength of its hub. But really, United is in a class by itself.

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