United Airlines is expecting lots of travelers to chase the sun this winter season.
The airline is gearing up for its busiest winter season yet to Cancun, where it’ll deploy its dense 364-seat Boeing 777-200s on three key routes.
Specifically, the airline will fly the domestically configured Boeing 777-200, which features 28 lie-flat business-class seats, 102 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats and 234 standard economy seats, on flights between Cancun and:
These daily flights will operate throughout the winter season from Oct. 29, 2023, to March 30, 2024.
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This is the first time in recent history that United has consistently operated a wide-body jet on the Denver-to-Cancun route, Cirium schedules show, and it represents a big capacity boost to a route that is typically operated by Boeing 737s.
Meanwhile, the 811-mile service from Houston to Cancun, which takes just about two hours, will become United’s shortest route consistently operated by a twin-aisle plane this winter season.
Flying on a wide-body for a short transborder flight is a notable passenger experience upgrade for those sitting in the pointy end of the jet.
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Even though the domestic United Boeing 777 first-class configuration offers a cramped 2-4-2 layout, a lie-flat seat is almost always more comfortable than the standard recliners that you’d find on most other United jets flying to Cancun. (Except if you end up stuck in a dreaded middle seat.)
Meanwhile, economy passengers may want to avoid the Cancun flights operated by 777s, since the 10-abreast cabin arrangement makes for a very tight squeeze. Plus, these jets don’t feature any seat-back entertainment.
While United’s upgauge may be good or bad news depending on your booking habits, the move comes as the airline is seemingly anticipating strong demand to Cancun this winter.
In fact, the airline plans its three busiest months ever to Cancun — December 2023, January 2024 and March 2024 — as measured by ASMs, or available seat miles — a standard industry metric that tracks capacity based on the number of seats flown and the distance traveled, Cirium schedules show.
Assuming all goes according to plan, United will offer over 200 million ASMs from the U.S. to Cancun in December and January — the first time that measure has ever crossed the 200 million thresholds in the airline’s history, per Cirium.
In total, this winter, the airline will offer flights to Cancun from eight airports nationwide, including:
- Chicago (up to four times a day)
- Cleveland (up to two times a week)
- Denver (up to four times a day)
- Houston (up to six times a day)
- Los Angeles (two daily flights)
- Newark (three daily flights)
- San Francisco (two daily flights)
- Washington, D.C. (two daily flights)
Note that these figures include the aforementioned flights operated by wide-body jets.
Of all the U.S. airlines, American Airlines has recently been the leader in sending wide-body planes to Cancun. The airline has a long roster of short domestic and transborder flights operated by twin-aisle jets, and Cancun has historically been a popular destination for them.
That said, American’s current schedule only shows one daily flight operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner this winter from Dallas/Fort Worth to Cancun. (Of course, this is subject to change.)
As for United, the airline has built a robust network of wide-body flights across the country and around the world. During the winter, demand for transatlantic flights declines, and the airline can strategically redeploy aircraft elsewhere.
That’s likely one reason why we’ve already seen the airline boost transpacific connectivity this coming winter. Plus, with the slow return of corporate travel demand, United can shift some excess capacity on domestically configured Boeing 777s from popular hub-to-hub flights to popular leisure-heavy winter destinations, such as Cancun.
Whether the airline realizes all the demand that it projects is anyone’s guess, but if you’re seated in the pointy end of the plane, at least you can expect a lie-flat seat when flying three United routes this winter to Cancun.