United Airlines appears set to cut its second non-stop service to a secondary Chinese city this year with bookings for its seasonal San Francisco-Xian flights, which it launched in 2016, no longer appearing to be available.

The cancellation of the service follows the airline’s decision to cut its year-round non-stop flights between San Francisco and Hangzhou in October this year; a route United said in a statement had become “no longer economically viable”. It appears the airline’s Xian service has faced similar difficulties.

United launched its flights to Xian as a three-times-weekly seasonal offering flying between May and October using its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner – at the time the Chinese city’s first non-stop trans-Pacific service. Flights take just over 13 hours westbound and about 12 hours eastbound.

Travellers going between San Francisco and Xian can instead connect to one of the Star Alliance member’s fellow carriers, notably Air China. United still flies non-stop to Beijing using its B777-300ER – equipped with the airline’s newest Polaris business class seat product – while China’s flag carrier flies a mixture of B737-800s, Airbus A321s and A330-300s between Beijing and Xian. Connection times range between about three to six hours in the Chinese capital.

An update on United’s Polaris business class rollout can be read here. Business Traveller reviewed the seat on the new B777-300ER’s inaugural flight into the US from Hong Kong and San Francisco.


United isn’t the only international carrier that has attempted (and failed) to establish non-stop services to secondary cities in China – British Airways, for example, cut its non-stop London Heathrow-Chengdu flights in January this year.

Much of this appears to be due to not having enough flights feeding travellers into these secondary cities from across China, a handicap not shared by their mainland Chinese counterparts. Chinese airlines have had much greater success in generating sufficient traffic on long-haul destinations and many, notably Air China, China Southern and Hainan Airlines, have been opening numerous new routes to Europe, the US and Australasia.