The first class and coach cabins are still separate on United Air Lines. A leading passenger and cargo airline, United serves more than 230 destinations in some 30 countries from hubs like Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Washington, DC. The airline, which also offers regional services via subsidiary United Express, operates a fleet of some 700 mainland aircraft. In addition, it leads the Star Alliance, a marketing and code-sharing group that includes Continental and Lufthansa. (Code-sharing lets airlines sell tickets on one another's flights, offering passengers more destinations). United is a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings, which acquired Continental in 2010.
United, which primarily serves cities in the US and Canada, as well as Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America, is also opening up routes to cities in Africa, including Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria.
Now united under one umbrella with sister subsidiary Continental, United has benefited from the increased stability and wider market presence of the larger organization created by the merger. (The resulting company is now the largest airline carrier in the world). In addition to boosting its revenue potential, the union with Continental gives United the opportunity to cut costs and streamline its operations in areas where the two companies overlap.
United also generates income from existing peripheral services and operations. Its United Services business offers aircraft maintenance services to third-party customers, while its United Cargo business transports freight and mail for third-parties. The airline also runs a frequent-flyer program that helps the company attract and retain repeat customers.
The company's revenue increased about 7% in fiscal 2011 compared with 2010. The revenue bump, from about $19.7 billion in revenue in fiscal 2010 up to around $21.1 billion in fiscal 2011, was primarily due to improved pricing and higher average fares.
However, United suffered a decrease in net income during fiscal 2011 as a result of an 8% increase in operating expenses related mostly to high aircraft fuel costs. The company reported net income of about $281 million in fiscal 2011 as compared to net income of roughly $399 million in fiscal 2010.
Because of its struggles to improve profitability, the airline has been cutting costs. The company's cost-cutting measures have included lowering capacity in domestic and international markets, cutting personnel, and scaling back its fleet.
United has also been looking for new ways to generate revenue. The airline has been bolstering its services to high-end passengers and business travelers through enhancements of in-flight services (i.e., lie-flat beds on first-class international flights and improved entertainment services). In 2012 the company was the first North American airline to take delivery of new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Other revenue-generating steps have included imposing checked-baggage fees, a money-generating option that other airlines have taken.