Fun times at the gate for the launch of United’s daily, direct service to London Heathrow (LHR) on a 787-8 Dreamliner. Photo: Kevin P Horn
United Airlines has been aggressively expanding its Denver hub over the last few years. Despite operating 471 flights a day and carrying 42% of traffic, the international routes have been limited to a few flights in Canada, a few south of the border, and the daily Dreamliner to Tokyo. Starting on March 24th, United re-launched, after a hiatus of a few years, seasonal, daily service to London Heathrow on a 787-8 as UA 27 and UA 26.
We were there for the inaugural flight and celebration for this exciting new route. This flight makes for three carriers serving London at once, with Denver’s biggest airline continuing expansion at the airport.
Getting ready for some long-haul flying, a 787-8 is at the gate with a 777-200 domestic in the background.
Domestic aviation in the western United States is a different operation than the population-dense East Coast. With major cities often 1,000 miles apart, often the only way to get between them in less than a day is to fly. Over the years, air traffic to the three largest Mountain West cities – Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City – has increased significantly as the importance of these markets has elevated through sustained and continued growth.
United Airlines has been a dominant force in Denver for many years, with an 80-year history that reaches back into the early years of commercial aviation. It is currently, and by a wide margin, the largest carrier in Denver by passenger enplanements, flights, and revenue.
Unitedâ€™s focus on Denver is no accident; the airport is its most profitable hub, a key part of its route network, and is a focus for continued growth within the airline. As a frequent traveler based in Colorado, Iâ€™ve wanted to explore and learn about how United Airlines uses its position in Denver to get people to their destinations, nationwide.
This is the first part of a two-part feature on United Airlinesâ€™ operations at Denver International Airport. The second part will cover Unitedâ€™s inaugural 787-8 Dreamliner service to London Heathrow as an example of how United is expanding the reach and prominence of Denver within its network.
Our United 787-9 being made ready for the inaugural long-haul LAX-SIN flight
Superlatives abounded on this, the inaugural non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. Itâ€™s billed as the third-longest direct flight in the world and the longest to originate from the United States.
There was even a ribbon-cutting ceremony – the presence of a trade delegation highlighted the fact that economic ties are strong between Singapore and the U.S.
The flight takes 17 hours, five minutes to cover the 8,772 miles between Los Angeles and Singapore. Favorable headwinds shaved an hour off our flight time, but, still. Itâ€™s an awfully long time to be in the air.
AF 787-9 Dreamliner – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
As far as airline journalism gigs go, I hoped that this would be a beauty. And it did not disappoint. IÂ missed an opportunity to visit the Air France (AF)Â CDG hub experience in November 2015 due to a lost passport. However,Â AF gave me a second, even juicier, bite of the cerise with an invitation to try its business class product onÂ board the airlineâ€™s recently arrived Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. We would fly out from London Heathrow (LHR) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on 23 March 2017. Youâ€™d perhaps be forgiven for raising an eyebrow seeing a long-haul bird deployed for a painfully short 45-minute hop over La Manche.