A United Airlines jet takes off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Febr 21, 2013 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (KAREN BLEIER / AFP)
Chicago-based carrier United Airlines expects the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, to give the company growth impetus as the region contributed more than 13 percent of the airline’s revenue in the first quarter of this year.
The carrier estimates capital expenditure for upgrading aircraft and lounge facilities, launching new products as well as installing the latest technology in all long-haul flights will be as much as US$3.8 billion. The company put US$4.8 billion into capital expenditure last year.
Walter Dias, United Airlines’ managing director for Greater China and Korea, said the carrier is not afraid of competing with global budget carriers.
“The important attraction for travelers is the network. We have the largest network in the world. We offer more destinations than other airlines. If you can offer a strong network, people would be willing to fly you more,” Dias said.
The Chinese mainland market has been fastest-growing over the last three to four years. The remarkable growth of this market will go on in the next 10 years
Walter Dias, Managing director for Greater China and Korea, United Airlines
“United Airlines is competing all over the world. In the domestic United States market, which is a mature market and the world’s second-largest travel market after the Chinese mainland. The market is really competitive. For us, we are fighting the battle with the low-cost carrier business model,” he added.
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UA celebrates 35 years of service in Hong Kong this year, having introduced its first route to the city – from Seattle – in May 1983. Currently, the carrier operates 25 weekly flights from Hong Kong to various US aviation hubs including Chicago, Guam, New York/Newark and San Francisco.
The carrier operates 68 weekly flights from the mainland, flying from Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai to various US destinations such as Chicago, Guam, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington DC.
Prior to 2014, Americans traveling to the mainland outnumbered mainlanders traveling to the US. Now the situation is reversed, with more than three million mainland tourists visiting the US last year, Dias said.
“The Chinese mainland market has been fastest-growing over the last three to four years. The remarkable growth of this market will go on in the next 10 years,” Dias said.
Besides enhancing network connectivity and improving inflight services, the carrier strives to make flight departure and arrival on-time so as to retain customer satisfaction.
The airline is also harnessing technology to improve customer services. UA signed a deal with Alibaba Group a year ago to facilitate ticket sales through Alipay. The airline is also considering sales through the WeChat Pay platform.
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