By at least one measure, United has surpassed Delta as world’s second largest airline.
Under Scott Kirby’s leadership, United has been in expansion mode for the last year. Denver is expanding. Houston is expanding. Chicago is expanding. In fact, there’s growth at each hub and a concerted effort to re-capture domestic market share ceded during the Smisek regime.
As I’ve written about before, United is expanding by up to 6% per year. That has certainly given some analysts pause, but if United’s stock price is any indication most investors seem to be onboard with the program.
> Read More: United Airlines Gambles on Increased Capacity
In 2018, United recorded 230.2 billion revenue passenger miles. That figure is a multiplication of number of passengers times distance flown. That narrowly edged out Delta’s 225.2 billion. Delta had edged out United for the #2 spot in 2015 and maintained it the last three years.
Of course United downplays that size matters. Spokesperson Megan McCarthy told Bloomberg:
Our goal is not to be the biggest. We want to be the best and as we implement our strategy, we are looking to build on this momentum in 2019.
And we can all cheer to that. But it merits mentioning that being the best requires having a robust network that not only serves many destinations, but serves them smartly. United has made progress toward this goal.
> Read More: Analyzing United’s “Historic” Expansion At SFO
Just like in U.S. presidential elections, part of the fun is tracking the horse race. It was only four months ago that I wrote about how United had surpassed American in another metric. Then, I wrote:
How do you measure how big an airline is? Profit? Share price? Passengers traffic?
That’s still a point of debate, but the direction is clear: United is rising.
United reclaimed its position as world’s second largest airline by growth, growth, and more growth. But to go back to McCarthy’s point, it will only be best by providing great service with its great route network.