United Airlines unveiled all its new features at IPW 2024

The IPW showcase was held until May 7 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and was attended by representatives of the travel and tourism sector

(Source: Travel2latam)

In this context, Travel2latam spoke with Marcel Fuchs, General Director of International Sales, and Christine Bals, Sales Director for LATAM and the Caribbean, of United Airlines.

What assessment can you make of United's presence in this tourist showcase?

It is a wonderful privilege to be here in Los Angeles. We have thousands of tour operators from all over the world joining and purchasing their product for United. It's really important to be visible to and support our partner agencies. We are the largest international airline in North America. We fly to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Asia, the South Pacific and, of course, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Latin America. We are truly the leading international airline from the US to the world. 

What is the situation of flight capacity after the pandemic?

Most capacity has returned, with some exceptions in Latin and Central America, where airline capacity has returned the fastest. In fact, we had a lot of business to and from Central Latin America and South America during COVID. And the recovery has been the most fleeting due to visits from friends and family, and the close ties between Brazil, Argentina, Central America and the United States. Europe, in recovery, found itself just after the Latin region. Asia has also returned, along with Australia. It's been a great year for us. In 2023, we roll out many additional seats in Australia and New Zealand. We have deployed a lot of capacity in Asia, mainly for leisure and business trips.

How do you describe United's current situation?

We have grown much more than other airlines, both internationally and in North America. In fact, if you look at transatlantic service from the US to Europe, we are about 30% larger than before COVID in 2019. We have also grown in Latin America, and we are larger in Central America than before. We are very happy about that. In Australia, in the South Pacific and in several other countries, such as Hong Kong, we are also above 2019 levels. 

Additionally, we have placed a large order for wide-body aircraft during the pandemic, so we have invested in our fleet. And in 2024, we expect to receive deliveries of 61 narrow-body aircraft and five wide-body aircraft. That means adding more than one plane per week. So we continue to grow, which means we have larger aircraft flying from our hubs, more seats per departure and more premium seats. We have emerged stronger from the pandemic and are in a leading position when it comes to capturing travel demand, which remains very strong in the United States.

They have a new route of magnitude, do you think that marks a more important milestone?

Yes. In Latin America we started flying this April to Guyana, Georgetown, from Houston. That will be a really important market for the oil and gas sector. We will also begin flying to Medellín, Colombia, in October. That will be a completely new route for us out of Houston. But that complements what we already have in Colombia, which are the two flights from Bogotá to Houston and the flight from Newark to Houston. There will be business from both sides of the pond. Many businesses come from Colombia and many others from the United States. 

We will also start flying to Tulum in Mexico at the end of March. Flights depart from Houston, Chicago and New York, and then from Los Angeles, in addition to complementing the flights we make to Cancun. 

I think it is necessary to differentiate between low-cost airlines in the region within Central America, versus low-cost airlines between the United States and Central America. We are in a position where we can compete with low-cost companies by offering a basic economy rate. Full-service US carriers like United have really learned how to compete successfully with low-cost carriers. In fact, if you look at the profitability of low-cost airlines over the last two years, full-service network companies have performed better financially than some of the low-cost airlines. And the reason is the very differentiated product segmentation. We have introduced the premium economy cabin on all our international widebody fleets. More than 220 aircraft are completely reconfigured. We have a product available for everyone, whether you are a student, family or leisure traveler.

How does the airline work in terms of the customer to provide access to better service?

We are working and partnering very closely with our TMC and travel agents across all segments, specialty versus tour, operations versus teams, whether groups, meetings or events. And it all starts with the offering you have in terms of what you fly and how often you're on the schedule.  

We work very closely with these agencies and offer a contract system and commitments on income or participation, where we contract the business and have relationships for many years. We support these agencies in terms of actual customer support. And we also have a b2b sales force throughout Central America, and in the United States for business to Latin America. So we're in a unique position to offer that support, which maybe other airlines have abandoned, or aren't doing it in the same way that we are. 

We work closely with our partners, the travel agency community, to develop business together. That's something we also do, we're not just selling seats, we're helping to connect people and opportunities between different countries, between our partner agencies and other markets, so that we can then develop the business.

Fleet chains are critical right now. In his opinion, how can the incorporation of modern aircraft contribute to sustainability?

We have a very aggressive fleet plan. We have 61 narrow-body aircraft on the way. A 331 XLR is expected in 2025. We have a unique fleet mix at United that really allows you to have the right size aircraft on the right route. In terms of sustainability, we have a modern aircraft with an engine that allows us to reduce our footprint. But we are also investing massively in sustainable aviation fuel.

Last year we purchased 7 million gallons of SAF, which is the largest absorption of SAF by any airline. We are leading a sustainability alliance coalition. We also invest in a sustainable flight fund joined by corporates and client agencies, where we invest in new startups to develop sustainable aviation fuel. We are investing in new alternative technologies such as carbon sequestration and hydrogen-powered energy. United is truly at the forefront of sustainability. It's a combination of fleet renewal, SAF, new engine technologies, plus all the other things we do. 



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