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United expands to Tel Aviv with Washington Dulles flight

United Airlines will expand its footprint in Tel Aviv with new service to Washington Dulles in May 2019, fulfilling one of the DC-area airport's top air service desires.

The Star Alliance carrier will offer three-times weekly service between Dulles and Tel Aviv on an up to 292-seat Boeing 777-200 from 22 May 2019, it says.

"We look forward to continuing to serve Israel with this new service for our customers traveling between the US capital and one of the most advanced science and technology sectors in the world," says Patrick Quayle, vice-president of international network at United.

The Chicago-based airline will offer up to four flights per day to Tel Aviv with the new Dulles route, which will complement existing service from Newark and San Francisco.

The new Tel Aviv route is United's latest expansion of its Washington Dulles hub, long an afterthought in its network. In 2018, it has or will add service to the airport from Chattanooga, Ithaca, Miami, Plattsburgh (New York), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wilmington (North Carolina) as it aims to boost connecting traffic.

"Dulles… is a great connecting hub for us," United vice-president of domestic network planning Ankit Gupta told FlightGlobal in June. "We want to position Dulles as somewhere you can travel from across the globe… but also be able to connect to from all up and down the East Coast."

Dulles lacks the airspace or runway congestion and restrictions at United's other East Coast hub Newark Liberty, and it has ample – if dated – terminal and concourse facilities.

Tel Aviv is among Washington Dulles operator the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) "two most important targets" for new air service, MWAA vice-president of airline business development Yil Surehan told FlightGlobal in May.

The operator faces more difficulty landing new service to the other top target, Shanghai, due to restrictions on the number of flights allowed between the USA and both Beijing and Shanghai. Chinese and US carriers already use nearly all of the available frequencies.

United's addition of Tel Aviv brings back a connection to the Middle East that it dropped when it ended service to Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait City from Dulles in January 2016, FlightGlobal schedules show. However, the airport still boasts nonstop service to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia on Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Saudia.

United's overall capacity from Dulles is scheduled to decrease 0.7% year-over-year in 2018, while seats will increase 5.9%, schedule show. International capacity will be down 2.9% and seats down 1.1% during the period.

However, international capacity on all carriers from Dulles is scheduled to increase 1.6% in 2018, according to the data. New routes this year include Cathay Pacific Airways to Hong Kong, Primera Air to London Stansted and Volaris Costa Rica to San Salvador.

United plans to grow system capacity by 4-6% in both 2019 and 2020, after growing by 4.5-5% this year.

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