United Airlines, which had already announced drastic cuts to its domestic and international schedule, today announced even deeper cuts. While the carrier was originally planning to cut 42% of its domestic schedule, that number is now up to 52% as demand for flights continues to dwindle in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, across domestic and international flights, United will reduce capacity by 68% in April.
The revised schedule will be available on United’s website later today. When the airline announced the first round of cuts, it stressed that it wasn’t leaving without service any of the cities to which it previously flew, but it’s unclear if this will still be the case now. We have contacted United for more details and will update this post once we learn more about these cuts. Update: United says it will not suspend service to any U.S. city, even after these additional cuts.
United, just like all other U.S. airlines, had already cut most of its international flights. And like virtually all global airlines, the current downturn hit the company right in the middle of a boom in demand for its services and while it was actually routinely expanding its schedule.
Like others, United is now also using empty passenger planes to fly cargo. Its Star Alliance partner Lufthansa is doing the same, and is now going as far as loading cargo onto seats and into overhead bins. For the most part, though, airlines are now parking their fleets and drawing down their schedules as they wait for the pandemic to end and demand to pick up again. Chances are, they will also get substantial government support during this time, though the details of what that will look like are still up in the air.