After an eight year hiatus, United mainline is returning to Burbank with upguaged service to Denver and San Francisco beginning this week. As a frequent Burbank customer, this great news hits very close to home.
I vividly recall the last day of United mainline at Burbank in 2009. Employees were offered severance packages or the option of moving to LAX or Orange County (SNA). There was a sense of sadness as the agents trained their SkyWest replacements and 50-seat regional jets replaced 128-seat mainline Airbus aircraft.
The agents were great then — Glenn and Kimmy in particular — and I would stop by the airport often to ticket future reservations. This was back in the paper voucher days and I still have a stack of Burbank-issued tickets in a box at home. Even better, there were several occasions in the era prior to mobile apps in which I received a call at my house if my flight out of Burbank was delayed or canceled. That level of 1K service helped solidify my loyalty to United.
Burbank is still the airport you can show up 15 minutes before departure and still make it. The terminal has changed a bit from the mainline days, but not by much. I do miss the old “Computer Counter” installed by United’s “Employee Owners” (bankruptcy changed that).
And now, mainline returns! I flew from Burbank to San Francisco early this morning and confirmed with the SkyWest agents that mainline agents will be returning tomorrow. Burbank will not be a 100% mainline airport — for now it will just be one flight per day to SFO and DEN. For that reason, both maline and Skywest/United Express agents will remain.
In a recent post, I mentioned that United is pursuing a more aggressive strategy of competing head to head rather than ceding markets. I’d say this mainline return is geared toward that as opposed to suddenly higher organic demand for flights.
You see, Southwest now flies to both Burbank and Denver. On 737s…
So what would you rather have? A 737 or a CRJ (or perhaps a E-175 on some days). The increased number of seats on this route will likely drive down fares, but it means that United wants to compete head on with Southwest. That is great news.
You can check out the mainline schedule here. Again, only one flight per day to/from DEN/SFO will be on mainline for the time being.
The last time I flew mainline from Burbank the Continental merger was not public and the tulip still living–
While United isn’t (yet) bringing back its 767 service from Burbank to Chicago, I’ll happily celebrate the return of mainline to Denver and San Francisco. Maybe, just maybe, Burbank will see unexpected traffic growth and we can see new flights to Chicago and Houston. But one day at a time.