united airlines swot analysis

United Airlines SWOT Analysis 2024 With Recommendations

United Airlines made its name with its exceptional service, serving passengers all over the world with dedication and becoming one the largest airlines worldwide, and we will learn about it in this United Airlines SWOT analysis.

United Airlines: Company Overview

Company United Airlines, Inc.
Industry Airline
Founded 6 April, 1926
Founder Walter Varney
CEO Scott Kirby
Headquarter Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois U.S.
No. of Employees 92,795+
Annual Revenue $14.48 billion (FY 2023)
Website united.com

Founded in 1926 as Varney Air Lines and later United Air Lines, United has grown through multiple mergers and acquisitions to become one of the world’s largest international carriers. Key milestones include the 2010 merger with Continental Airlines.

United operates over 5,000 flights daily to 342 airports across 5 continents. Headquartered in Chicago and with roughly 92,795 global employees, United posted 2023 annual revenues of $14.48B, making it one of the top airlines globally regarding passenger-kilometers flown and destinations covered through its partnerships in the Star Alliance network.

Product & Services of United Airlines
Airline | Baggage Services | In-flight Services

United Airlines Competitors
Delta Airlines | American Airlines | JetBlue Airways | Southwest Airlines | Virgin Atlantic

Did You Know?

A Baldwin grand piano located in New York’s JFK airport, frequently used by traveling musicians, was donated by United Airlines in 1997 after being damaged in a cargo facility fire.

Strengths – United Airlines SWOT Analysis

strengths of united airlines

Strong Branding: As one of the most recognizable names in air travel, United has spent decades building brand awareness and customer loyalty. Besides, the unified 2010 merger with Continental reinforced United’s brand presence across North America and internationally. With hubs nationwide, United maintains top-of-mind brand recall for many travelers.

Efficient Operations: United’s capacity to leverage its route network and optimize fleet usage has enabled higher load factors than competitors. As a result, Its 2023 passenger load factor reached 86.40%, exceeding pre-pandemic and past-year load factors. Besides, strategic fleet modernization efforts also improve cost efficiencies. The 2023 addition of 100 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft featuring the latest engine technologies further supports reliable operations.

Steady Cash Flow: Despite sectoral slowdowns, United’s cash generation ability stayed strong, given its operational scale and cost management. The full-year 2023 operating cash flow totaled $23.970B, while adjusted net income was $2.861B, demonstrating financial resilience. Besides, continued domestic travel recovery and international network restoration provide future cash flow visibility.

Weaknesses – United Airlines SWOT Analysis

weaknesses of united airlines

Third-Party Dependency: United relies heavily on regional airline partners to serve secondary markets. However, it creates vulnerability, and 2023 saw over 5,000 United flights canceled partly due to shortages at regional carriers. Not to mention, decreased control over the passenger experience on these outsourced flights also impacts brand reputation.

Low Customer Satisfaction: In multiple customer satisfaction surveys, United trails rivals, as we can see that, the 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked it below Alaska, Delta, and Southwest for traveler approval. Though improving post-merger, negative incidents like the infamous 2017 passenger removal video continue to plague United’s customer perception.

Unskilled Management: The company has seen high executive turnover in the past decade, with 3 different CEOs since 2016. The lack of consistent strategic leadership has made building a performance-driven and customer-focused culture harder. Sudden senior exits suggest poor succession planning and surface-level fixes rather than profound systemic change.

Opportunities – United Airlines SWOT Analysis

opportunities for united airlines

Sustainable Practices: United has committed to 100% green operations by 2050, aligning with the airline sector’s carbon neutrality targets. With one of the youngest, most fuel-efficient fleets globally, further investments in sustainable aviation fuel, operations efficiencies, and carbon capture can cement United’s eco-friendly approach.

Better Segmentation: While lagging rivals in absolute premium passengers, United serves key high-revenue hubs. Further segmenting offerings to improve business/first class and loyalty program perks can better cater to premium long-haul clientele backed by solid corporate contracts. Standout services for discerning leisure travelers also offer growth potential.

Strategic Partnerships: Though past mergers were complex, United has the platform to pursue global joint ventures, equity stakes, and acquisitions, especially targeting fast-growing markets in APAC and LATAM. With a simplified fleet and efficient operations, United is well-poised for selective expansion through partnerships globally.

Threats – United Airlines SWOT Analysis

threats to united airlines

Cutthroat Competition: The US aviation market is dominated by four colossal legacy carriers constantly vying for market share. United faces an intense rivalry from American, Delta, and low-cost giant Southwest, all eying the same customer segments across extensive overlapping domestic networks.

Security Issues: With air travel a frequent target, security threats that lead to network shutdowns or altered restrictions remain a perennial concern, impacting customer volumes and raising airline operating costs. A December 2023 FAA system outage led to 1,300+ United flight cancellations, demonstrating the risk.

Rising Fuel Prices: Being heavily dependent on jet fuel, oil price volatility directly impacts United’s profitability. Though United has hedging programs, fuel constituted over 25% of 2023 operating expenses. With mounting geopolitical tensions and inflation, predicting fuel costs poses planning challenges.

[Bonus Infographic] SWOT Analysis of United Airlines

united airlines swot analysis infographic template

Recommendations for United Airlines

Here are some recommendations for United Airlines in the future.

  • United should enhance its premium offering so that business travelers can compete better with rivals’ upgraded cabins.
  • Expand staff training to improve complaint handling and overall travel experience.
  • To meet sustainability goals while managing fuel price volatility, United should partner with biofuel firms on long-term supply pacts.
  • Given its strength in serving Central America, United should acquire an essential regional carrier to expand into growing South American markets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes, United Airlines is still flying to India.

No, United is not a 5-star airline.

Final Words on United Airlines SWOT Analysis

United Airlines is a leading airline brand with financial and operational strengths to leverage, but poor customer perceptions, leadership instability, and risks from external factors like fuel costs and competition plague it. Pursuing selective network growth opportunities while doubling down on premium services, customer experience training, and sustainable fuel solutions can help differentiate United strategically. Execution of recommendations around expanding service segments and Latin American routes backed by biofuel partnerships has the potential to propel operational performance while supporting margin protection.


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