This thread seems a bit Silly. United has never been stronger and more innovative.
1. Don't have regional scope? Come up with an innovative idea: CR550. Not perfect but a very innovative way to address the problem.
2. Amazing international hubs and business traffic hubs, not great domestic connectivity: Build up DEN to 700 departures/day. Work on making IAD more of a connecting hub so EWR focuses on local O&D. Taking more local Chicago traffic.
3. IPTE: 2-4-2 Business class product while everyone else Has aisle access: Come up with the only true innovative J-class among the US3. Delta is out there taking their tired old coffin seat and slapping a plastic door on it with new stitching. AA is out there taking a nice seat, but a seat right off the catalog shelf and getting on the plane asap. United actually spent a lot of time developing a new seat and creating an entire brand around it.
4. Polaris: Related to the J class but also creating an entire new Business class brand with a new polaris lounge product to rival or perhaps be better than AA's Flagship Lounge by some accounts. Delta is still serving stale soups in the Sky Club to their premium passengers along with all the other sky club members. Also redone United clubs
5. Focus Cities: United has hubs at most Economic powerhouse cities in the US: Corporate travelers want to fly to their hubs naturally: NYC, DC, SFO, LAX, IAH, ORD (DEN less so compared to their other hub but certainly a major economic powerhouse in the Mountain West)...
6. United is already a part of the most important and powerful airline alliance with partners like LH Group that covers Europe like no other then ANA, SQ, NZ, AC, AV, Air China, etc.
I don't think United needs to step up. They already have.
Some reasonable points here in a very UA-favorable post. First, the Polaris Lounges are already better than the Flagship Lounges, with the notable exceptions of Flagship Dining (where available, with an even more restrictive access policy than Polaris) and the more permissive access policy of the FL generally. It's also a good point that UA already has hubs in most of the strongest local markets in the country, making focus cities less important. Finally, UA has hands-down the best Pacific joint venture, and its Atlantic JV is strong in a more evenly-matched field. Star Alliance is nice but revenue-sharing, immunized joint ventures are the name of the game these days.
I can see UA-B6 cooperating to complement each other's networks. UA gets presence in JFK, BOS, and the Caribbean, and B6 gets international presence through UA (and heartland operations). They can test the waters, readjust, and agree to merge down the road if everything passes the sniffing test.
But I still think, if B6 really wanted to explore taking over a carrier, F9 is the prime player, having a mountain hub (though NK will also want to make a play for F9). UA's options in the SE are to either open a hub or cooperate with a player, and only B6 serves that role.
RDU is a no-no (too close to IAD for it to be meaningful, and with CLT next door, AA is likely to have the upper hand). MCO is an LCC base, as is FLL (and MIA just a few minutes down the road? Hah!).
Now, here's a sleeper airport: what about CHS? SC's busiest airport, far enough from ATL and CLT to not be preyed upon by the rivals, far away from UA's closest hubs, prime SE location, and a closer hub to the Caribbean than IAH or IAD.
I might be in a minority but I think a UA-B6 merger would be approved without much "surgery". The combined entity might be forced to divest some JFK slots, and the equivalent of the B6 operation at EWR (which itself is comparable to the pre-merger United operation), but the question would be, to whom? AA/DL are out, Allegiant/Spirit/Frontier are obvious contenders
CHS is interesting, but it doesn't have the facilities (terminal or airfield) to support a true hub operation. It also would be an incredibly capital-intensive, questionable undertaking to launch a hub at CHS in a growing, but still leisure-oriented market 250 miles away from ATL and even closer to CLT.
OK. I see Delta truly putting their money where their mouth is in terms of terminal and amenity upgrades. Don't see that from United.
UA is building out its 6th Polaris Lounge at IAD, starting work on a massive United Club at EWR, within the last 5 years completed major terminal projects at SFO/LAX/IAH, and is underway with or will soon be starting even larger projects at ORD, DEN and LAX. UA will also be the largest tenant at EWR Terminal 1, with a new lounge there as well. Many of these projects are in conjunction with airport operators bearing the largest burden, but the same is the case with DL at SLC/LGA/JFK/LAX, etc.
Bottom line, everyone has a lot of capex in real estate projects right now.