April 4, 2014 4:04 am JST

United Airlines expanding service to Asia-Pacific

SOICHI INAI, Nikkei staff writer

NEW YORK -- United Airlines is boosting flights linking North America and the Asia-Pacific region as it seeks to meet growing demand from Asian travelers.

     The U.S. carrier's Asia-Pacific strategy has entered a second phase, says Vice Chairman James Compton. The airline is broadening its service beyond such mainstays as Tokyo and Shanghai to include flights to smaller cities.

     The carrier launched daily flights between San Francisco and Taipei last Saturday and is set to start flying between San Francisco and Chengdu, China, on June 9. Service between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, will begin Oct. 26. With these flights, the company is sending the message that its U.S. West Coast hubs serve as gateways for connecting Asia-Pacific with America.

     To enhance service for customers traveling between North America and Asia, the airline has revamped its San Francisco lounge and seeks to capture more business travelers.

     Having launched a Narita-Denver route last June, United continues to bolster its service to Japan. At the end of last month, it added a second daily flight between Narita and Houston, a hub for Central and South America. That city is attracting growing ranks of Japanese companies seeking to tap into the shale gas boom in Texas. The airline has concluded that even if it doubles the seats it offers, it can still reap profits.

     United is also awaiting final approval from U.S. authorities for launching a San Francisco-Haneda route. Flights to and from the Tokyo airport are expected to be operated late at night or early in the morning.

     By establishing a presence at Haneda, United hopes to capitalize on the extensive network of All Nippon Airways. The Japanese partner snatched up an overwhelming number of new international flight slots at Haneda, which in the past mostly handled domestic flights.