Elaborative SWOT Analysis of United Airlines – The World’s Third Largest Airline

Updated on: Dec 14, 2021

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Previously we looked into the enthralling SWOT Analysis of Delta, one of the world’s leading airlines in the United States. In this case study, we will analyse the SWOT Analysis of United Airlines.

With the purpose of “Connecting people and uniting the world”, United Airlines is serving millions of people all over the world, from its formation to the present day. This formation has made United Airlines the world’s third-largest airline. They are constantly focused on providing customers with digital tools so that they can have a smoother and faster travel experience. 

Identifying the growth of mobile bookings and introducing redesigned applications according to users’ feedback have helped United airlines grow a lot. So, any company needs to stay digital today. So, if you’re interested in keeping up with the latest developments, – check out Free Masterclasses on Digital Marketing 101 by the CEO and Founder of IIDE, Karan Shah.

Before starting with the SWOT analysis of United Airlines, let’s look into the company’s history, products, and close competitors to get a better understanding.

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About United Airlines

SWOT Analysis of United Airlines - United Airlines Aeroplane

United Airlines is a leading American airline company headquartered in Chicago. It was set up in 1926 as Varney Air Lines but later the name changed to Boeing Air Transport. United Airlines is the third-largest airline in the world as it covers the largest number of destinations in the entire world. It provides air services for 1000 destinations in 170 countries and more than 700 aircraft are operated by it. It has a strong international route network and 10 international hubs in which George Bush International Airport is the largest hub. 

United Airlines is a combination of various airlines which include National Air Transport, Air Micronesia, Pacific Air Transport, Capital Airlines, Varney Air Lines, New York Air, Arizona Airways, Pan American, World Airways Challenger Airlines, etc. The logo “U” is used on its aircraft.

Quick Stats on United Airlines
Founder Walter Varney
Year Founded 1926
Origin United States
No. of Employees 86,852+
Company Type Public
Market Cap $ 17.14 Billion (2021)
Annual Revenue $ 43.26 Billion (2019)
Net Income/ Profit $ 3.009 Billion (2019)


SWOT Analysis of United Airlines - United Airlines Front-Line Cabin Crew
(United Airlines Front-Line Cabin Crew, Source: Future Travel Experience)

Services by United Airlines

United Airlines is certified as a 3-Star Airline for the quality of its airport and staff service. They offer many onboard services to their passengers. Some of them are:

  • Seating Options
  • Special meals and mid-flight snacks
  • Beverage selections
  • Seatback entertainment system
  • DIRECTV and Inflight magazines

Close Competitors

United Airlines had the fourth-highest domestic market share among US Airlines in 2020. Its main competitors are:

  • Southwest Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • JetBlue Airways

Now after knowing United Airlines briefly, let’s begin with the SWOT analysis of United Airlines.

SWOT Analysis of United Airlines

By studying the SWOT analysis of United Airlines we can identify the company’s strengths, weaknesses, possible opportunities, and threats. It’s an excellent tool to understand a company’s strong points, its shortcomings, what areas it can excel in, and what are its threats.

SWOT Analysis of United Airlines - SWOT Infographics of United Airlines

From the SWOT analysis of United Airlines, let us first begin by understanding the strengths of United Airlines.

Strengths of United Airlines 

Strengths indicate what a company excels at and what sets it apart from the competition and how it’s unique in the market. Let’s see what are the strengths of United Airlines: 

  • Third Largest Airline: United Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the US with a strong network. They have about 5000 flights a day to 300 destinations across 6 continents. Also, more than 80000 employees work with them from different places. United Airlines operates around 2 million flights annually and serves over 140 million customers in a year.
  • Brand Identity: The company has a strong brand name, great history, legacy, and recognition all over the world. Good branding is done through extensive advertising via TV commercials, print ads, online ads, online booking applications, social media engagement, and digital marketing, etc. The brand has a strong presence on social media with nearly 1 Million followers.

SWOT Analysis of United Airlines - United Airlines Instagram Marketing Post
(United Airlines Instagram Marketing Post, Source: Instagram)

Online advertising activities of United Airlines like these are accomplished by highly skilled professionals who are creative and well versed with digital marketing skills and techniques. These skills are made for smart people like you who can establish a career in digital marketing and find the right job opportunity that will suit your need.   

  • Customer Service: They provide customers with entertainment tools like streaming movies, WiFi, music, and onboard meals. Also, they timely take feedback from users and implement it.
  • More Benefits to Regular Customers: Its frequent flyer program called MileagePlus offers loyal travellers various benefits like free tickets, vacations, discounts, and more.

Weaknesses of United Airlines

Every coin has two sides, now after a bunch of the strengths there come the weaknesses of United Airlines.

  • Intense Competition: Strong competition with other domestic and international airlines which means limited market share growth for United Airlines.
  • Challenges to Maintain a Positive Brand Image: Many times, United has battled high-profile negative passenger events, including a passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane and the death of a pet in an overhead bin. So there have been many incidents that give the wrong perception of United Airlines to the public.
  • Depending on Third-Party Services: For customer service, maintenance, and fueling operations they need to take the help of other service providers.
  • Financial Issues: United was filed for bankruptcy in 2002. They lost $7.1 billion in 2020 and the COVID-19 situation has strongly affected the company.

Opportunities for United Airlines

Opportutos, and, eventually, profit. So, let’s see what kind of opportunities United Airlines can go after to increase its reach and achieve excellent results.

  • Increasing Partnership: Partnerships with international players and trying to reach newer & unexplored destinations have helped United Airlines to expand its reach worldwide.
  • Growing Tourism: Expanding the US airline industry and growing tourism can help flourish the business of United Airlines in the international & domestic sectors. The US inbound tourism statistics paint a fascinating picture of America’s continued tourism industry growth, with many visitors from Mexico, Canada, the UK, Japan, and China. 
  • Strong U.S. Economy: Strong U.S. economy will ensure higher purchasing power of people willing to invest in travelling.
  • Positive Growth in the Indian Aviation Industry: The company has grown its operations and increased the number of flights on practically all routes. The industry is likely to continue to grow at a similar rate, which is good for United Airlines.

Threats to United Airlines

Threats are the environmental factors that can forbid a company’s expansion. Here are some threats:

  • Many Competitors: Intense competition from low-cost airlines offering discounted prices can lead to loss of margins for United Airlines.
  • Rising Fuel Price: Rising fuel prices is another headache for the aviation industry as it reduces profits. Increasing oil prices causes high fuel prices and as fuel is one of the key expenses for airlines an increase in the cost of fuel gets passed on to consumers through higher airfares.
  • Pandemic Situations: The aviation industry has seen a dramatic drop in demand for air transport from passengers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people’s jobs in the air transport sector were at stake during a pandemic.
  • Terrorist Attack: The threat posed by terror groups hangs over all airlines as well as aeroplane manufacturers.
  • Government Regulations: Emission regulations and many other government rules directly or indirectly affect the airline company.

This ends our elaborative SWOT analysis of United Airlines. Let us conclude our learnings below.

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To Conclude 

United Airlines is a premium airline with high service quality and operated globally through strategic alliances. It is a founding member of Star Alliance in the airline industry. Despite some ups and downs to date, the company has received overall good customer feedback. Many passengers praise the various onboard services and other perks offered to the regular customers. 

United Airlines has also invested in environmental practices such as the use of repurposing kits, reducing the use of paper, and adopting cleaner fuel to reduce pollution. As United Airlines has faced a lot of media crises, they need to be more careful in the future about the same and should respond quickly to customer incidents. They need to be transparent with the media and put in place necessary procedures so such incidents do not happen again. 

Also, United Airlines is continuously trying to maintain a positive brand image and attract more customers through social media management, advertising via TV commercials, and digital marketing, as everyone is present on digital media nowadays. Do you also want to learn digital marketing? Then check out this 3 Months Advanced Digital Marketing Course by IIDE. As everything is shifting online, this course can be beneficial if you are interested.

We hope this blog on the SWOT analysis of United Airlines has given you a good insight into the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

If you enjoy in-depth company research just like the SWOT analysis of United Airlines, check out our IIDE Knowledge portal for more fascinating case studies.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and do share your thoughts on this case study of the SWOT analysis of United Airlines in the comments section below.

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Aditya Shastri

Lead Trainer & Head of Learning & Development at IIDE

Leads the Learning & Development segment at IIDE. He is a Content Marketing Expert and has trained 6000+ students and working professionals on various topics of Digital Marketing. He has been a guest speaker at prominent colleges in India including IIMs......[Read full bio]


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