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United Enters Pittsburgh - West Coast Markets

Maybe it's the haze of having been on vacation the last couple weeks, but I've seen several pieces of news this week that have me thinking . . . "what the heck?" The latest is United's decision to begin flying from Pittsburgh to both LAX and San Francisco once daily. I don't get this move, so there has to be more to the story.

United has spent an awfully long time paring down its domestic route network and shifting routes on to smaller aircraft. In fact, this is the first mainline domestic route I can remember them launching in awhile. So is Pittsburgh - West Coast flying really the best use of their metal? I guess so. But why?

They do hint at it in the release. "Our new trans-continental flights between Pittsburgh and the west coast ensure Pittsburgh residents have convenient, daily service across the country and one-stop connections to Asia." Ok, so Asia connections are a reason? Hmm, well they already fly Pittsburgh to Chicago, so they have good connections to Asia already. But these flights to SFO are well-timed to connect into the Asian bank.

But what about LAX? That doesn't connect to Asia, and it only connects to Australia one way, so that can't be it. It appears to be timed best for the local market. Did they pick up some large corporate deal that needs these routes? Could it be that Pittsburgh gave them a sweetheart deal with a ton of support that made this look good?

The weird thing is that these routes should be the domain of Star Alliance partner US Airways. That's what codesharing is for. While US Airways has reduced its presence in Pittsburgh significantly, it still flies in these markets once a day. The westbound flights from Pittsburgh to LAX are only a half an hour apart. US Airways eastbound, however, is a redeye while United will have a morning flight. At least the San Francisco flights are at different times of day.

Normally, I'd wonder if this was some sort of spat between US Airways and United, but that is just so self-destructive that I'd hope it's not true. Like I said, there has to be more to this story.

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