May 23, 2023 - Business

United expands at DIA amid bid to be Denver's hometown airline

A Boeing 777/200 of United Airlines sits at a Denver International Airport gate in 2020. Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

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 Southwest had claimed the same using outdated data from 2021.

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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