United expands San Francisco service to include Melbourne, Toronto, New Delhi

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Planned 2019 flight launches to Toronto, New Delhi and Melbourne, Australia, highlight what United is calling its largest-ever expansion of its San Francisco international network.

United will begin San Francisco-Melbourne service three times a week on Oct. 29, making the Bay Area its second launching point to Melbourne, joining Los Angeles, and putting United in competition on the route with the Australian carrier Qantas.

United's San Francisco-Toronto flights begin March 31, operating twice daily. United partner Air Canada is currently the lone carrier on the route, according to the website Flight Connections, operating it four times daily.

United will also launch San Francisco-New Delhi service, but on a winter seasonal basis. The service will begin on Dec. 5, 2019, and will compete against Air India. San Francisco will be United's second gateway to India, joining Newark, from where it operates flights to New Delhi and Mumbai. United remains the lone U.S. carrier in the India market, though Delta has said it plans to launch Mumbai service next year.

Melbourne, Toronto and New Delhi will join Amsterdam as new international destinations from San Francisco next year. A daily Amsterdam route, which United announced in August, launches March 30.

Along with the new routes, United will also extend or increase service on three existing international routes from San Francisco in 2019.

The carrier will make its winter seasonal San Francisco-Auckland, New Zealand, and San Francisco-Tahiti services year-round starting next spring, and on April 1 it will increase service from San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea, from once daily to twice daily.

Speaking on a conference call with the media on Dec. 12, United vice president of international network Patrick Quayle said that the carrier has thus far announced 35 new routes networkwide for 2019, including eight international routes.

The network growth, especially on domestic routes, is part of a plan United unveiled last January to increase regional connectivity in midcontinent hubs Chicago, Houston and Denver in an effort to regain lost market share.

On the call, CEO Oscar Munoz said that the carrier will proceed with the plan it announced last January to grow by 4% to 6% through 2020, a rate that is faster than legacy competitors Delta and American.

"We see that growth strategy paying off," Munoz said.

United stock was up more than 27% year-to-date as of the middle of last week, compared with precipitous year-to-date drops in American and Southwest stocks and flat results for Delta stock.

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