United Airlines reiterates ‘commitment’ to UK trade partners

United Airlines has reiterated its commitment to UK trade partners while celebrating a boost in the number of transatlantic seats on sale.

The airline is operating 7% more seats from the UK to the US this summer compared with 2019, according to UK and Ireland sales director Karolien De Hertogh.

De Hertogh, who succeeded Bob Schumacher at the start of last year, said United is “very committed” to the UK market and went on to underline the importance of travel agents in supporting the carrier’s growth.

“Travel agencies bring customers to us and have a value to us, and add value,” said De Hertogh.

“There are so many areas where we can only reach the passenger when we work with the trade and we have the sales team in place to work with them.”

United will operate up to 20 flights a day between Heathrow and the US this summer, with up to four from Edinburgh.

“London really is the jewel in the crown for United,” De Hertogh said. “We’re very invested in this marketplace.”

United has a total of 800 aircraft on order, with delivery scheduled between now and 2032.

De Hertogh said the “largest order in the history of aviation” would increase capacity while improving the passenger experience.

When UK travellers arrive in the US for onward journeys, they will benefit from “new, larger aircraft with space for everyone’s suitcase in the overhead bins”.

United’s seven US hubs are New York (Newark), Chicago, Washington DC, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The airline has been using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Los Angeles since 2016, said De Hertogh, with agreements also in place in Amsterdam and Heathrow.

“We believe that in the short to medium-term, SAF can be a major contributor to achieving net-zero goals,” said De Hertogh.

She added: “Everybody knows we need more SAF production and as we have more SAF the price will come down.”

United wants to be net-zero by 2050 “without relying on traditional carbon offsets”, De Hertogh said.

“Our science-based near-term emissions reduction target for 2035 has been approved externally,” she added.

Addressing the carrier’s safety performance, following the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to increase oversight of the airline, De Hertogh said there is a “very strong safety culture at United”.

“Safety always comes first and we welcome the collaboration with the FAA,” she added.

An external panel was found missing from a United aircraft on March 15 when it landed in Oregon.

Before that, an aircraft rolled onto the grass in Houston and another lost a tyre after take-off from San Francisco. The latter aircraft, bound for Japan, was diverted to Los Angeles where it landed safely.

In a message to United employees on March 22, the carrier’s vice-president of corporate safety, Sasha Johnson, wrote: “Over the next several weeks, we will begin to see more of an FAA presence in our operation as they begin to review some of our work processes, manuals and facilities.

“We welcome their engagement and are very open to hear from them about what they find and their perspective on things we may need to change to make us even safer.”

Johnson added that the FAA would be pausing a “variety of certification activities” for a period.

Asked whether the UK trade had reacted to the FAA investigation, De Hertogh said: “In our market it’s been limited in terms of immediate feedback.”

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