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UA Incheon-San Francisco flights to exceed pre-pandemic levels

May 6, 2023 - 16:01 By Kim Hae-yeon
Walter Dias, United Airlines' regional director of sales in Greater China, Korea and Southeast Asia, poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald, April. 27. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

The number of United Airlines flights from Incheon to San Francisco will exceed pre-pandemic levels starting from June as the Star Alliance member hopes to serve as a connecting bridge among travelers from Korea and the US, according to a top executive at the air carrier.

The airline has increased the number of flights from Incheon to San Francisco, from seven flights weekly to 12, since April 24, to reach pre-pandemic levels. Starting June 2, it will expand the flights for the route to 14 per week, the most number of weekly flights it has offered.

"The two countries share a long history together. We hope to foster business ties through constantly building more traffic to Korea from the US as well, which will be an economic benefit to Korea also in the long term," Walter Dias, regional director of sales in Greater China, Korea and Southeast Asia at the United Airlines, said during an interview with The Korea Herald, April 27.

"The service to our hub in San Francisco will offer convenient connections to some 70 destinations in the US, Canada and Latin America," he added.

One noticeable pattern that Dias found post-pandemic is the blurred lines of traveling purposes among passengers. There used to be a strict divide between leisure and business travelers in the past.

"Companies have become less restrictive about remote work, and counterintuitively, this has increased travel demands. People go to destinations and work for the first two days, then carry on to take the rest days off to fully enjoy the trip," Dias noted.

On top of such expansion, the airline has recently invested in a $100 million fund along with five other companies, to developing an eco-friendly aviation fuel that produces less greenhouse gases. It was in line with the company's effort to achieve the company's ambitious net-zero goals with more sustainable measures, instead of one-off green campaigns.

The ultimate aim for the airline is to achieve net-zero by the year 2050.

"We know it's a challenging statement, but we are all-in to making it a reality," he added.

Technologies required for the aviation industry to replace fossil fuels in aircraft, ultimately producing consistent amount of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF, still has a long way to go, but the company believes doing so is a winning strategy in the long term.

"We want to get to a point where customers directly say to travel agents, without looking at the price, that they want to buy a United Airlines ticket to San Francisco, thinking that we share the same values," Dias said.