United Airlines is betting that Alaska will continue to be a top destination in summer 2022. The airline loaded four routes this weekend to its schedule next summer, giving passengers more ways to get to the state. While none of the routes are new, the return of these expanded routes to Alaska seems to indicate ongoing confidence and strong demand for outdoor leisure-oriented destinations that have been a popular type of destination for travelers.
United loads four summer 2022 routes to Alaska
Data from Cirium shows that Alaska Airlines added the following routes to its summer 2022 network this weekend:
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) daily from June 3rd using a Boeing 757-200
- Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Anchorage (ANC) daily from June 3rd using a Boeing 737 MAX 8
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Anchorage (ANC) daily from June 3rd using a Boeing 737-800
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) daily from June 3rd using a Boeing 737-800
Separately, United Airlines is beefing up services on flights between ORD and ANC. From June through August, United will go from one daily Boeing 737-800 on this route to two daily services. All routes are available for booking using United’s website or mobile application.
Newark to Anchorage is blocked at seven hours and 40 minutes. The return flight is blocked at six hours and 49 minutes. Houston to Anchorage is just a bit shorter and is blocked at seven hours and 12 minutes. The return flight is blocked at six hours and 47 minutes.
Chicago to Fairbanks is the third-longest route blocked at six hours and 27 minutes. The return flight is blocked at five hours and 54 minutes. San Francisco to Anchorage is the shortest of these routes, blocked at four hours and 41 minutes, while the return is blocked at four hours and 36 minutes.
These routes have all existed in the past in some form or another. Newark, Houston, San Francisco, and Chicago are key hubs for United, offering connecting itineraries for travelers from across the United States. Most of these routes are geared toward connecting domestic travelers, though there are some one-stop international routes that United will also sell. These four routes will join unchanged daily service from Anchorage (ANC) to Denver (DEN).
The aircraft operating each route
Alaska is a far distance from the mainland United States and some of these rank among the longer domestic routes in the US. As a result, the type of aircraft operating each route can make a difference in terms of onboard products and comfortable flights for passengers.
Newark to Anchorage will be seeing service on a Boeing 757-200. The planes scheduled to operate this route are 169-seat aircraft. These planes offer 16 lie-flat business class seats in a 2-2 configuration. Then there are 45 extra-legroom economy seats and finally 108 standard economy seats. All seats feature access to on-demand entertainment via seatback screens. WiFi and power are available for all passengers.
Houston to Anchorage will be operated by a Boeing 737 MAX 8. While a long-haul on a narrowbody is not the most comfortable experience, United’s MAX 8s feature the airline’s new, upgraded “Signature Interior” product. Seating 166 passengers, the MAX 8 offers 16 seats in recliner-style first class (2-2 configuration), 54 in extra-legroom economy, and 96 in standard economy (3-3 configuration). All seats feature on-demand entertainment via seatback screens with new Bluetooth headphone pairing. WiFi and power are also available at all seats.
The remaining flights are all operated on 737-800s. These planes seat 166 passengers and have 16 recliner-style first class seats (2-2 configuration) and 150 economy seats (3-3 configuration), with varying numbers of extra-legroom and standard economy. Seatback entertainment, WiFi, and power outlets are available for all passengers.
Several of the routes are scheduled as red-eyes, so if you have a choice of itineraries, the type of aircraft operating the route may be important for travelers looking to get some sleep. The most comfortable hard product would be the lie-flat option to Newark, though Newark is not the best hub for most connecting travelers.
Outdoor leisure is still key for United
Last week, United Airlines loaded additional summer 2022 domestic routes. This included focusing on outdoor leisure destinations like Burlington, Vermont; Glacier Park, Montana; Aspen, Colorado; and Bozeman, Montana, among others.
Since the global health crisis started, outdoor leisure destinations have been a key focus for airlines. With major cities shut down and concerns over viral spread growing, passengers instead flocked to beach and mountain destinations as well as the National Parks. Bozeman is a primary gateway to Yellowstone and served as a hotbed for new route launches in summer 2021.
Alaska has also received a lot of attention from other US airlines. Alaska Airlines has added several new routes from the state to the mainland, with more on the way. Recent or planned additions include Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Denver, and San Francisco.
Delta Air Lines announced a massive expansion of flights to Alaska for summer 2021. Detroit and New York (JFK) were new routes to join the airline’s network. After United announced it was coming back on the Newark to Anchorage route with flatbeds in 2021, Delta upgauged its New York to Anchorage service to a Boeing 767-300ER feature flatbed seats.
Delta’s routes to Alaska in summer 2022 have thus far reverted to pre-crisis service focused on Minneapolis and Seattle with additional service from Salt Lake City and Atlanta. American Airlines will only serve Alaska from its Chicago and Dallas hubs, relying on partner Alaska Airlines to offer more ways to get between the mainland US and the state of Alaska.
Alaska is a popular summer destination for domestic travelers, and these routes could have more profound importance for the airline. As travelers start to consider travel in 2022, public health news threatens to potentially disrupt some transatlantic travel plans. United may be adding these routes as an insurance policy to offer alternate summer 2022 travel options to passengers who want to go far away without needing to use their passport.