United expands at DIA amid bid to be Denver's hometown airline
United Airlines is announcing flights to new destinations and more amenities at the Denver airport ahead of the summer travel season.
Why it matters: United is the largest private employer in Denver with nearly 10,000 employees, and the expansion is part of a larger bid to become the city's hometown airline.
What's new: The new nonstop flights announced today and scheduled to start this fall include San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
- United will fly some of those routes on new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft and open revamped club spaces on the B concourse that are the largest in its network.
By the numbers: The addition of 12 gates and 35 new flights this year will reinforce the Chicago-based airline as the largest in Denver with 50% more flights and destinations than its nearest competitor, the airline said.
What they're saying: United CEO Scott Kirby is visiting the city today to make the announcement. "Our expansion in Denver will … revitalize our presence at the airport with modern, customer-friendly offerings," he said in a statement ahead of the visit.
The intrigue: DIA is the third busiest airport in the world and a hugely competitive market. United is battling with Dallas-based Southwest and Denver's Frontier to win the loyalty of local travelers with additional routes and budget-minded trips.
Zoom in: United launched a social media campaign earlier this month to troll Southwest and tout its stature as Denver's most-flown airline. Southwest had claimed the same using outdated data from 2021.
- It's the latest tit-for-tat between the two airlines as United emphasizes its local connections and the city's role as its fastest-growing hub.
Of note: All new and active United pilots visit the flight training center in the Central Park neighborhood.
- "We think these are real points of pride not only for us and our employees there, but the city of Denver," United's Maggie Schmerin told Axios Denver.
The other side: Southwest's Dan Landson said the airline has more than 6,000 employees in Colorado and plans to reach 300 flights this summer, an all-time high.
- "It's important that local travelers know they can count on Southwest to get them to the destinations they want to go," he said in an interview.
Details: United's announcement includes more routes to Miami, Boston, Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
- The new nonstop destinations start Sept. 29 to Asheville and Greensboro, North Carolina; Dayton, Ohio; and Lexington, Kentucky.
- The San Juan flight begins Oct. 29 and Jamaica launches Nov. 4.
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