United has just gained another notch on its belt, becoming the world’s second business airline by passenger numbers in 2018.
The airline closely beat out Delta’s numbers last year (and dethroning them from the title that they have held since 2015), only being trumped by American Airlines.
How many passengers did United Airlines transport in 2018?
Straight up, the carrier flew 230.2 billion revenue passenger miles, five billion more miles than near competitor Delta. This is surprising as Delta actually just over 100 more jets than United, and yet United seemed to have used them far more efficiently.
They have done this through increasing their passenger capacity by up to 6% in 2018, adding in new routes, new jets, and new aircraft configurations. They also focused on key hub airports, adding routes to and from hubs like Denver, Houston, and Chicago.
“Our goal is not to be the biggest, we want to be the best and as we implement our strategy, we are looking to build on this momentum in 2019.” – Megan McCarthy, United Spokesperson told Bloomberg
This news mirrors the companies share price, that has risen 24% over the last year. Eight other comparable airlines on the American S&P index lost value over the year.
Will their growth continue into 2019?
It is very likely that United will be able to stay competitive for this title in 2019. They have the following planned initiatives to keep the competition on their toes:
- United is launching another 22 new domestic routes and 11 regional jet routes.
- They are also adding new routes with their fleet of Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners (The largest capacity Dreamliner and a competitor to the Airbus A350)
- New international routes (for example the seven new routes out of San Fransisco).
- They are also considering the possibility of all business class flights across the Atlantic.
This position will drive passenger numbers and continue to make United a dominated player. However, Delta might have them beaten on regional networks, with their new fleet of Airbus A220 aircraft taking to the sky in 2019.
Naturally, this award is based on passenger numbers and not on actual service or quality customer experience. Additionally, it is not the award for profit (which will be revealed soon when airlines release their Q4 2018 results) which would be an indicator of how good a business they are. This is just a measure of how they gained the 2nd most passengers in the world.