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No to Norway: United Axes Plans to Restart Seasonal Service to Oslo

Delta might ‘Keep Rising’ but United continues their downward spiral, it would seem.

Oscar Munoz is objectively probably the best Chief Executive Officer they’ve had in a long time and despite his health problems (the guy had a severe heart attack just weeks into his tenure as CEO and needed a heart transplant) has managed to get the two very different and contentious work groups of ex existing UA and ex Continental people working together.

Ah beautiful Oslo – but you won’t be landing here on a United flight anytime soon.

That hasn’t stopped the raft of cuts that we’ve been seeing at United though – Bangkok has been closed as a station as a whole, and services to Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong have been cut – rumors are also abound of the newly launched San Francisco – Chengdu route being ‘normalized’ – as in most likely cut.

Yes, there have been adds, such as the newly launched and thus far highly successful SFO-Singapore nonstop route but the cuts have far outweighed the adds (and let’s face it…if you can’t make San Francisco-Singapore work with a fortress hub on one side and a five star alliance partner on the other, you fail at life).

The Scoop:

According to both GDS and Amadeus global booking systems, it looks as though United has cancelled plans to re-start their Oslo (OSL) service. While flights to the Norwegian capital were initially loaded into their summer system and was available for booking on united.com, all flights have since been quietly withdrawn along with another planned summer service to Belfast (BFS) in Northern Ireland.

Both flights were seasonal summer services to be operated by the 757-200 (international flatbed configuration) from UA’s massive hub at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

The third summer seasonal service from EWR to Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) remains untouched thus far, slated to be daily also on the 757.

The Takeaway:

Oslo in particular is an interesting cut to the United network – OSL is a Star Alliance hub with Scandinavian Air System (SK) having a base there and offered massive connections through to northern and continental Europe through SK.

While BFS was an understandable cut, OSL is not as much. Granted United Star passengers can continue to transit through Stockholm which admittedly is a larger SAS hub than Oslo, and SK also does serve Newark. But choice is always key as is mileage redemption terms and conditions – of which SK is notoriously stingy on.

One might wonder if United was better served keeping these flights alive at least seasonally, rather then re-positioning these international 757s into their p.s. network (as speculated) – surely getting into a fare war with the likes of Virgin America by adding flights and going over 10x daily on the New York to west coast market isn’t going to outweigh the benefits of serving an important Star Alliance international hub?

Or was the commencement of ultra low cost service on Norwegian Airlines to various points across the Atlantic (Florida, New York, California first) and the opening of their JFK hub the catalyst for this route’s demise?

We’ll see what other cuts will come off the heels of this one – Newcastle is already out as well, I now look to Glasgow, Vienna, Lisbon and Dublin as other potential ‘smaller’ European destinations that might face the cut at UA despite two of them (VIE and LIS) being Star hubs – it seems as though that factor doesn’t really make a difference in UA’s decision making process.

And let me also just say here that we don’t appreciate the nature by which this cut was done – no official press release or statement on the official website; just very quietly pulled from all booking systems without a whisper of an explanation or apology. You stay classy, UA!

Meanwhile let’s cross the Hudson River over to JFK and where we’ll notice that Delta is seeing tremendous success on their more non-conventional seasonal trans-Atlantic routes to Prague, Venice, Faro, Nice, Athens and Kiev.

Ah good ‘ol United – jack of all trades, master of none.

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