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Why is there no Premium Transcon Service for IAD to SFO (or LAX)?

Why is there no Premium Transcon Service for IAD to SFO (or LAX)?

Old Feb 8, 16, 6:24 pm
  #1  
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Should UA Expand Premium Service?

UA offers premium service between LAX-EWR and SFO-EWR on all flights, meaning all flights have a lie flat business class section and are flown primarily by 752 aircraft (along with some 772's). DL and AA offer their version of this on all JFK-LAX/SFO flights. B6 recently started offering a similar product on JFK-SFO/LAX routes, but has recently begun to expand this product. Now, B6 Mint is offered between JFK-LAX/SFO, seasonally between JFK/BOS-BGI and JFK-AUA, and starting in soon (March for SFO, fall for LAX) between BOS-LAX/SFO. This could be really bad for UA, as these routes are two of UA's busiest non hub-hub domestic routes, and there is no p.s. offered. With this in mind, and the success of the current p.s., should UA expand its p.s.? And if so, where?

First of all, I think UA needs to get all of its 752s into the same configuration, as both types fly p.s. routes. UA currently has 4 752s with no lie flat business (which are being retired in April), 41 752s in "international configuration" (16 lie flat business, 45 E+, and 105 economy), and 15 752s in "p.s. configuration" (28 lie flat business, 42 E+, and 72 economy). The problem with this is that UA uses both international and p.s. planes for the p.s. routes, leading to issues when they change planes. Personally, I think they should all switch to p.s. configuration because 16 business is less than offered on their 737-900's and 737-900ER's, and transatlantic routes could maybe use more than 16 business seats.

Second, I think they should start offering p.s. on IAD-SFO/LAX and BOS-LAX/SFO routes. This isn't even too unrealistic given their current fleet situation. Currently, IAD/BOS-SFO/LAX is served by a mixture of 320s, 739's, 738's, international 752's, and an occasional 772. 772's are going to start flying a few EWR-SFO/LAX routes, freeing up a couple 752's there. Also, 752's are slowly being removed from transatlantic service in favor of 763's and 764's, which will free up a few more 752's. Given that 752's also currently operate ~2 of each of the rt's for each of these routes anyway, it may be possible for UA to switch over to all 752's in the future.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:37 pm
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Originally Posted by DA201 View Post
DL and AA offer their version of this on all JFK-LAX/SFO flights.
AA also offers "flagship" service on some MIA-LAX/vv frequencies.

Originally Posted by DA201 View Post
With this in mind, and the success of the current p.s., should UA expand its p.s.? And if so, where?
Probably not. The demand comes on two parts: O/D and connecting flow. For the connecting flow EWR is the only part which makes sense. For O/D it is hard to know if anything other than NYC can truly support it. Remember that there is - at least theoretically - an increased fare to account for the premium service.

Originally Posted by DA201 View Post
First of all, I think UA needs to get all of its 752s into the same configuration, as both types fly p.s. routes. ...and transatlantic routes could maybe use more than 16 business seats.
Probably not.

Originally Posted by DA201 View Post
Second, I think they should start offering p.s. on IAD-SFO/LAX and BOS-LAX/SFO routes.
It may be possible to force it in the fleet. But probably less profitable than keeping the other planes flying those routes. The premium cabin planes are used on these routes between other flights where they are needed; it is utilization flying, not trying to take advantage of premium demand which doesn't really exist. That's why so many of the TATL 752s go to Florida during the day - it is between flights to Europe, not because MCO supports higher fares for F demand.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:40 pm
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
AA also offers "flagship" service on some MIA-LAX/vv frequencies.
All MIA-LAX/vv flights are treated as Flagship service for soft product purposes. 2-cabin F/3-cabin J receive AC access (3-cabin F receives FL access), improved catering, Samsung tablets, intl J pillows/blankets, etc.

The hard product varies - you've got everything LAA on that route except for S80s and 757s.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by DA201 View Post
and starting in soon (March for SFO, fall for LAX) between BOS-LAX/SFO. This could be really bad for UA, as these routes are two of UA's busiest non hub-hub domestic routes
On what planet?? UA isn't even operating BOS-LAX right now, so it's certainly not one of their busiest routes!
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:49 pm
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:50 pm
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UA has very little competition in the IAD-California market. VX has a couple flights to SFO and a couple to LAX to serve its own customers but UA has the frequency and the IAD hub to fill their planes. VX has no lie flat seats so UA would have to make a big investment to bring PS type service to the market while most likely not gaining any more revenue than they are taking in now on those routes. So, why bother.

The bigger question is BOS as B6 has a following in BOS and now has Mint fans in both LA and SF. At the start UA can still claim frequency-especially in the SFO-BOS market. If B6 steals more of UA's customers, then UA's position in the BOS transcon market could be in trouble in the long term--particularly in the LAX-BOS market where UA is not all that strong. Taking away first class revenue or lowering the price to the point where UA takes in much less revenue makes those transcons much less profitable for UA.

Nobody knows at this point what the impact of B6's additional Mint seats will mean for Boston. Could be a complete failure or could just as easily be the impetus to take UA out of the LAX-BOS market to start. We will see what happens.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:56 pm
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Note that DL dropped its equivalent of p.s. on the JFK-SEA and vv route. DL also eliminated treating certain other JFK transcon routes special by dropping lounge access for certain fares on these flights. So from a competitive perspective, there seems to be some evidence that p.s.-like service is only successful, in terms of profit, on the JFK-LAX/SFO and vv routes, where singificant numbers of passengers are willing to pay a big premium for it.

It will be interesting to see how the JetBlue offerings do, in terms of price points and continuation/expansion of the service.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 6:56 pm
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I might be in the minority here, but I would actually not be thrilled to see it if it came with the same pricing that accompanies ex-EWR p.s. I'm perfectly happy with recliner First on my non redeye transcons (and try to avoid redeyes), and I'm not thrilled about the idea of having to pay an extra $100-200 (or more) each way just to stay out of Y. But I don't fly to NYC that much, so I don't have a good fix on how inventory is for the $1198 RTs. That's a price I can stomach.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 7:29 pm
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Of course everyone wants p.s. But, are they willing to pay for it? It only makes sense for UA if it can sell the premium cabin at close to full price. B6 is quirky and it will be interesting to see if B6 can ever sell Mint at anywhere near a true J price. If it can't, it will have been a fun experiment.

That means no freebie UG's and not that many deeply discounted tickets. LAX/SFO-EWR support that. It's unlikely that IAD does as that is a government market and the aircraft are jammed now.

The only part of the p.s. product which really sells is the seat. The rest of it is fluff. Lounge access, a bit better catering and so on just won't sell tickets.

I've got to believe that the UA marketing people look at this and then figure out whether they can expand the service and use that to determine aircraft going forward.

I'd love it, but I don't see it.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 7:42 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
That means no freebie UG's and not that many deeply discounted tickets. LAX/SFO-EWR support that.
I'm not even sure of that. I managed to buy my first couple of RT SFO<>EWR BF for under $1000 last week. Seems like they were around $2500 for most of last year.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 8:41 pm
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Originally Posted by porciuscato View Post
I'm not even sure of that. I managed to buy my first couple of RT SFO<>EWR BF for under $1000 last week. Seems like they were around $2500 for most of last year.
I'm not convinced either as I suspect that JFK and EWR are distinct markets, at least for HVCs.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 10:18 pm
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Originally Posted by sfozrhfco View Post
The bigger question is BOS as B6 has a following in BOS and now has Mint fans in both LA and SF. At the start UA can still claim frequency-especially in the SFO-BOS market. If B6 steals more of UA's customers, then UA's position in the BOS transcon market could be in trouble in the long term--particularly in the LAX-BOS market where UA is not all that strong. Taking away first class revenue or lowering the price to the point where UA takes in much less revenue makes those transcons much less profitable for UA.

Nobody knows at this point what the impact of B6's additional Mint seats will mean for Boston. Could be a complete failure or could just as easily be the impetus to take UA out of the LAX-BOS market to start. We will see what happens.
Just looking at a random date, B6 Mint is cheaper than UA first (standard not flat bed) on over half the flights that day (BOS-SFO). Now, it could just be the day but... Good point, I do not know whether people will prefer UA frequency or B6 comfort, but in general a lot of business travelers prefer time over comfort (especially for domestic flights), so I would not be surprised if UA's flights around when the B6 flights are suffer. Boston most likely has a lot of travelers who prefer B6, with it being the biggest airline at the airport.

Also worth pointing out that Mint has been a big success so far, nothing but positive reviews, and their seasonal expansion to the Caribbean has apparently been successful. And I think they will be successful from Boston, as Boston does have a lot of high paying business travelers. In fact, Turkish Airlines chose to fly to BOS before SFO because they believed there were more high paying customers in Boston than San Fran.

"Boston competed with Chicago, Miami and San Francisco for Turkish: Glynn said the airport made the case that it had a disproportionate share of high fare business travelers within its population." -Forbes
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Old Feb 8, 16, 10:32 pm
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This question is like 10 years old - some searching might bring up some old threads about it.

Short answer - no other market has been shown to have the guaranteed (well, as much as there is any guaranteed) paid premium traffic like NYC - West Coast does.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 11:20 pm
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The 75B will not be reconfigured into a high J layout nor will the sUA 757 be placed on TATL flights.
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Old Feb 9, 16, 12:02 am
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Originally Posted by JOSECONLSCREW28 View Post
The 75B will not be reconfigured into a high J layout nor will the sUA 757 be placed on TATL flights.
For equipment reasons, operational reasons, or contract reasons?
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