United Airlines Eyes New Daily Washington D.C. to San Francisco Route

A United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX8 in flight.
Photo Credit: United Airlines

United Airlines has taken a step towards bolstering its cross-country services with a proposed route between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

The carrier has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval for a new daily roundtrip flight serving Washington D.C and San Francisco.

This move, if approved, promises to increase travel options for passengers on both coasts and strengthen United’s position in two of America’s most dynamic markets.

Connecting D.C and the Bay Area

The proposed route hopes to offer more than just a direct link between the nation’s capital and the Bay Area.

It also aims to provide connections from SFO to approximately two dozen domestic markets within the Western U.S. and seven international destinations.

Notably, at least nine of these destinations currently lack United connection options to DCA via San Francisco, highlighting the significant gap this new route would fill.

A series of United Airlines aircraft parked at San Francisco terminal
Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons

Patrick Quayle, Senior Vice President of Global Network Planning and Alliances at United Airlines, emphasized the strategic importance of this move.

“With our hub in San Francisco, United is well positioned to serve the strong customer demand for air travel between Washington National and the Bay Area,” Quayle stated.

He added that the new service would offer unique departure times, enhancing flexibility for travelers and improving connectivity for both domestic and international passengers.

Strategic Route Timing

One of the key advantages of United’s proposal is its timing. The airline has strategically planned the flight schedule to avoid the busiest travel times at DCA, which is already one of the most congested airports in the country.

This thoughtful approach not only benefits passengers by potentially reducing delays but also demonstrates United’s commitment to easing airport congestion.

The proposed flight would introduce a morning departure from DCA to SFO and an afternoon departure from SFO to DCA, offering scheduling options that are currently unavailable.

United plans to operate this route using the Boeing MAX 8 aircraft, equipped with 150 economy cabin seats and a total of 166 seats, ensuring a comfortable travel experience for passengers.

The significance of this route becomes clear when considering the economic importance of both regions.

Two Key Travel Markets

Washington, D.C. is a major center of commerce, hosting over 15 Fortune 500 companies and serving as a hub for emerging technologies like AI and data sciences.

It’s also home to the U.S. Federal Government and numerous international organizations, making it a critical destination for business and diplomatic travel.

On the other side of the country, California stands as a powerhouse of innovation and business, boasting the highest number of Fortune 500 companies in any U.S. state.

The state’s economy, valued at $3.9 trillion in 2023, is the fifth-largest in the world and has shown robust growth, expanding by 6.1% over the previous year.

San Francisco and its surrounding areas are home to over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including tech giants like Apple, Alphabet, and Airbnb, as well as established corporations such as Chevron and Wells Fargo.

Russss, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

United Presence in San Francisco

United Airlines already has a strong presence in San Francisco, operating an average of 240 daily departures and serving more than 60 domestic and 30 international destinations from SFO.

The airline’s workforce of over 12,000 in the Bay Area underscores its commitment to the region.

In an interesting twist, United has also submitted an alternate proposal for its first-ever DCA-Los Angeles (LAX) flight.

This move is aimed at fostering healthy competition on a route currently served by three other airlines.

The proposed LAX flight would offer the earliest arrival in LAX and the latest morning departure to DCA among all carriers, further expanding options for travelers.


As the DOT reviews United’s application, the potential impact of this new route extends beyond mere convenience.

It means a strategic linking of two of America’s most influential regions, potentially catalyzing economic growth, fostering business connections, and enhancing cultural exchange.

The decision on this application could mark a notable development in the U.S. air travel market.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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