The New United

The lead article in this week's edition of Airline Weekly was on the new United/Continental Airlines. The article went into great depth discussing the positives and negatives of the world's largest airline. The positives were many and the negatives few. Here are some of both: [more]
United and Delta are in a race to be the most profitable U.S. carrier among the four remaining U.S. legacy carriers. Both United and Delta had great third quarters.
United is more profitable than Southwest and JetBlue.
United is the biggest airline in America's biggest airline market, New York. United is strong at LaGuardia and Continental has dominated Newark for a long time.
United's hub at Chicago O'Hare is strong and growing. American is its chief rival at O'Hare and has been shrinking its Chicago hub.
United's largest hub is Continental's old home town of Houston. This hub is a fortress.
United also dominates Washington-Dulles where it operates an international hub.
Denver has long been United's gem in the Rocky Mountain region. Southwest continues to grow in Denver, but Frontier continues to shrink.
There is hope that one day in the not too distant future United (or one of its global Asian partners) will operate flights over the Pacific from Denver using the new Boeing 787.
Los Angels and San Francisco help give United a large number of West Coast options.
On the down side, United faces labor problems with its pilots union. Airline Weekly says United faces one of two unpleasant scenarios: 1) a US Airways style arrangement, whereby workforces remain separate for years, with all the attendant inefficiencies; or 2) having to give pilots and others what they want, which could raise its unit cost.
United has great hubs and the best route system in the industry. But they face low cost competition at several of these hubs and high operating costs at several of its airports.
When you combine the positives and compare them with the negatives, United has come a long way from the bankruptcy days of 2006. They have also made great improvements in the quality of their service. Is United perfect? Of course not, but there is no doubt they have greatly improved since merging with Continental. In my opinion, the positive spirit of Continental has made United a better airline.
Robert Polk is CEO of Polk Majestic Travel Group in Denver. These insights are excerpted from Robert's weekly newsletter, From the Desk of Robert A. Polk.