Banking on Houston - United Hub

Banking on Houston Airport

By Matt Adams, June 27, 2017

Earlier this year, President Scott Kirby spoke with employees about the future of United and our plans to build the best airline for everyone we serve. "To be the best airline in the world, there are two 'must haves': the best people and the best network," he said. Calling United the airline with the "greatest route network potential in the world," we are focused on strengthening our hubs, creating opportunities for future growth and competing aggressively for customers everywhere we fly. Now, we are embarking on a new strategy in Houston that will help us achieve those ends.

For several years, we have operated a schedule of ten "flight banks" at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, with the hub serving as a connection point primarily for east-to-west routes across the U.S. Beginning this fall, however, we are moving from that model to a consolidated eight-bank structure that connects passengers from all directions, giving us more flexibility to feed aircraft throughout the entire country while maximizing our approximately 90 gates at Houston Airport.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of "banking," think of a bank of flights as a cluster of aircraft that all arrive at a hub at roughly the same time and then depart to different destinations around the spoke. In the past we would see, say, 50 arrivals per bank spread throughout the day. But under the new schedule plan, we'll have eight daily peaks with upwards of 75-80 aircraft arriving at once.

Doing this allows us to improve connectivity for our customers and provide greater access to more destinations across the country. The move is also expected to increase passenger demand in several markets, enabling us to upgauge some United Express flights to larger mainline aircraft, and will result in better utilization of our space at the airport.

To help minimize any negative impact on our operation and employees, our Network Planning team worked closely with Houston Airport's leadership, eliciting feedback from the different operational groups and ensuring that potential pitfalls were addressed.

"We are going to invest in the right assets in Houston so that our employees have the tools they need to be successful under this new configuration," said Mark Nelsen, Operations Network Analysis Senior Manager. "For instance, we're focused on things like making sure the baggage system, our lobbies, TSA and ATC can all handle the increased movement of customers during those eight peaks. We're also adding staffing so that our employees can adequately support larger numbers of flights in each bank."

Additionally, there will be several other areas of investment meant to facilitate the new bank structure, including installing more lobby kiosks and adding ground support equipment.

With more flights, more route options and more available seats in and out of Houston, we are looking to better connect people to the places and moments that matter most. Customers can begin purchasing tickets for flights within the new schedule on June 24 for travel beginning on October 29.

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