United plans to expand Australia, New Zealand flights 40% in bet on international travel rebound

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A United Airlines Boeing 777-200 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California.
Louis Nastro | Reuters

United Airlines is planning to grow its service to Australia and New Zealand later this year, the carrier’s latest bet that travelers will continue to book international trips.

The expansion to 66 weekly flights between the U.S. and the two countries amounts to a 40% increase in flights from last year, the carrier said Tuesday. The schedule also equates to about 75% more seats to those countries than the same season of 2019, United said.

The new schedule includes nonstop flights between San Francisco and Christchurch, New Zealand, on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner starting Dec. 1, and from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, on a 787-9 on Oct. 28. United is also building up service from both San Francisco and Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia, and it is using its largest plane to fly between San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia.

Airline executives have been upbeat about international travel demand and have been expanding their schedules to cater to the rebound.

Delta Air Lines last week forecast second-quarter results ahead of analysts’ estimates and highlighted particular strength for international trips.

“On international, we are excited with the momentum we’re seeing and expect record revenues and profitability for the summer travel season,” Delta’s president, Glen Hauenstein, said Thursday on an earnings call.

The carrier is growing its international seats by 20% in the quarter ending in June and it has locked in about 75% of its bookings, he added.

United Airlines is scheduled to report first-quarter results after the market closes Tuesday and will provide another demand forecast ahead of the peak summer travel season.

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