UNITED Airlines, the biggest in the US, has snubbed Scottish airports in favour of expanding its markets in Ireland, the Netherlands and Nigeria.
However, United confirmed its commitment to maintaining direct flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Newark Liberty International following the completion of its merger with Continental Airlines.
Earlier this month, Chicago-based United revealed an expansion of its summer schedule to Ireland with the launch of a five-times-weekly summer service between its main O’Hare hub and Shannon.
The airline also confirmed the first international route to be serviced by its new Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft will be Houston to Amsterdam Schiphol, despite confirming that it had reduced route capacity due to a sluggish global economy, particularly in Europe.
Airline executives enthused about the lightweight, fuel efficient 787’s suitability for smaller markets in long haul destinations but said it could be years before the new plane would be landing in Scotland.
At a press conference in Chicago, United chief executive Jeff Smisek confirmed that Lagos in Nigeria would be a priority destination to be served by one of the carrier’s new 787s.
The airline will this week make its maiden flight operating the Dreamliner, having been the first American carrier to take possession of one of the Washington State- constructed aircraft earlier this month.
Eventually the group will have 50 of the much-anticipated aircraft at a cost of $1.7 billion (£1bn). However, airlines that have ordered the planes have had their expectations dampened as Boeing struggled with snags in its global sourcing and manufacturing process which caused years of delay.
At a conference aimed at international journalists, United executives hailed the “synergy capture” of its merger with the troubled Continental Airlines which it embarked on two years ago.
Now the largest airline in the US, the company said since the merger it had added 70 destinations it flies to, but that growth was most significant in China, where passenger numbers from Houston have grown 230 per cent.
Greg Hart, the senior vice president of technical operations from United, lamented that woes that have hit US airlines since 2001 meant that “this industry has never made a dime in the US”.
But he added that the airline was “always willing” to talk to airport authorities and local governments about investing in new routes.
The company declined to reveal how the routes between Scotland and the US – established by Continental Airlines before the merger – were faring.
Regarding when and if Scotland would see the 787s, James Mueller, vice president, Atlantic and Pacific sales at United, said: “I would say probably not soon just because there is a lot of demand for those aircraft. We are anxiously awaiting delivery of them. Ultimately we are going to get 50 and you will see them all over our network.”
He added: “With all of our markets ultimately economic conditions and supply and demand will determine their future. But I will say overall we are happy with our business in Scotland.”