A few years ago Etihad Airways set out to streamline itself. After hitting hard times and running into fierce competition, it cut routes, cut costs, and invested in a more fuel-efficient fleet. And earlier this year Etihad announced a long-awaited return to profitability. So that part of the transformation seems to be working.
But did the passenger experience take a hit from the airline’s belt-tightening? We had a chance to find while flying business class on their 787-9 Dreamliner, a staple of their leaner long-haul fleet. Read on for plenty of photos, videos, and opinions on the experience. And at the end of the story we have some fresh news about Etihad’s onboard product.
Arriving at Dulles
Our flight was in business class from Washington D.C. to Abu Dhabi. I love planespotting at Dulles, especially from onboard those goofy “mobile lounge” buses.
Etihad’s Verified to Fly program allows you to confirm your COVID vaccine related documentation in advance, which scores you access to a separate shorter check-in line. Definitely take advantage of if you can — it can mean major time savings at the airport.
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.
United’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, I’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 Airlines’ operations at Denver International Airport. The second part will cover United’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.