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West Africa: United Airlines To Add Lagos, Accra And Johannesburg To Network

United Airlines have recently announced route expansion plans into Africa and Asia.

On the Africa front, the carrier is set to commence operations into Lagos, Accra and Johannesburg with the Boeing 787-9 aircraft type from 2021.

Extract From Official Press Release:

"Starting this December, United will fly daily between Chicago and New Delhi and, starting in spring 2021, United will become the only airline to operate between San Francisco and Bangalore, India and between Newark/New York and Johannesburg. United will also introduce new service between Washington, D.C., and Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria in late spring of 2021.

Now is the right time to take a bold step in evolving our global network to help our customers reconnect with friends, family and colleagues around the world," said Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of International Network and Alliances. "These new nonstop routes provide shorter travel times and convenient one-stop connections from across the United States, demonstrating United's continued innovative and forward-looking approach to rebuilding our network to meet the travel needs of our customers."

Offering nonstop service to three new destinations in Africa

United will become the only U.S. carrier serving Accra nonstop from Washington, D.C. and the only airline to serve Lagos nonstop from Washington, D.C., with three weekly flights to each destination beginning in late spring 2021. The Washington metropolitan area has the second-largest population of Ghanaians in the United States, and Lagos is the largest Western African destination from the United States. Now, with 65 different U.S. cities connecting through Washington Dulles, United will offer convenient one-stop connections to Western Africa.

United already provides seasonal, three-times-weekly service between Newark/New York and Cape Town. By adding new daily nonstop flights between Newark/New York and Johannesburg in spring 2021, the airline will operate more flights to South Africa than any other U.S. carrier, and will offer the only round trip, nonstop service from the United States to Johannesburg by a U.S carrier. These routes also offer easy connections for customers travelling to South Africa from more than 50 U.S. cities." Extract Ends.

We believe that this move is timely, especially with South African Airways struggling and not operating a number of routes currently into the United States.

Also, United had to do something, especially with the domestic market in the United States being lacklustre due to reduced Covid19 related travel demand. So expanding into these 3 key markets where the definable is a void is a smart move.

Will the routes make money?

Potentially. It all depends on the commercial reaction from Delta and how United set up their operations in a very competitive and aggressive West African market. Delta is already established as the American carrier in Africa so it will be interesting to see how the commercial activity plays out.

Carrier Of Choice

United has the opportunity to carve a niche in these markets and set the standards going forward to place itself as the carrier of choice from Africa once the anticipated air travel markets rebound post 2021. With its impressive domestic network in the States it will certainly give Delta and the European carriers, that connect to the US via their various hubs, real competition.

Whatever happens, these route announcements are demonstrating that United is agile and are able to spot potentially lucrative gaps in market segments - and capitalise on them.

A very calculative set of strategic moves, we wish them well.

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