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Company > United Continental Holdings: Business Model, SWOT Analysis, and Competitors 2023

United Continental Holdings: Business Model, SWOT Analysis, and Competitors 2023

Published: Feb 13, 2023

Inside This Article


    In this blog article, we will delve into the business model, conduct a SWOT analysis, and examine the competitors of United Continental Holdings, a leading airline company. By understanding its business model, we can gain insights into how the company operates and generates revenue. Additionally, a SWOT analysis will help us identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that United Continental Holdings faces in the ever-evolving airline industry. Furthermore, we will explore the key competitors of the company and analyze their strategies, positioning, and potential impact on United Continental Holdings in the year 2023.

    What You Will Learn:

    • Who owns United Continental Holdings and the significance of understanding its ownership structure.
    • The mission statement of United Continental Holdings and how it guides the company's actions and goals.
    • How United Continental Holdings generates revenue and the various revenue streams that contribute to its financial success.
    • An explanation of the United Continental Holdings Business Model Canvas and its key components.
    • An overview of the major competitors of United Continental Holdings and the market dynamics within the airline industry.
    • A comprehensive SWOT analysis of United Continental Holdings, highlighting its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

    Who owns United Continental Holdings?

    Major Institutional Shareholders

    United Continental Holdings, the parent company of United Airlines, has a diverse ownership structure with several major institutional shareholders. These institutional investors, such as mutual funds, pension funds, and asset management firms, own a significant portion of the company's outstanding shares.

    One of the largest institutional shareholders of United Continental Holdings is Vanguard Group. As of the latest available data, Vanguard Group holds approximately X% of the company's shares. This makes it one of the most prominent stakeholders in the company. Other major institutional shareholders include BlackRock, State Street Corporation, and Fidelity Investments, which collectively own a substantial portion of United Continental Holdings.

    The ownership structure of United Continental Holdings reflects the confidence of these institutional investors in the company's potential for growth and profitability. Their significant stakes in the airline demonstrate their belief in the long-term viability of United Airlines and their commitment to capitalizing on its success.

    Insider Ownership

    Apart from institutional investors, there is also a notable component of insider ownership in United Continental Holdings. Insiders, including executives, directors, and employees of the company, own a certain percentage of the outstanding shares. Their ownership stake aligns their interests with those of the other shareholders and emphasizes their commitment to the company's success.

    While specific details on insider ownership are not readily available to the public, it is common for executives and key personnel to hold a substantial number of shares in the company they work for. This allows them to benefit directly from the company's performance and serves as an incentive for them to make decisions that drive the company's growth and enhance shareholder value.

    Retail Shareholders

    In addition to institutional investors and insiders, United Continental Holdings also has a significant number of retail shareholders. These are individual investors who purchase shares of the company through brokerage accounts or other investment platforms. While the ownership stakes of individual retail shareholders may be relatively small compared to institutional investors, their collective ownership can still represent a substantial percentage of the company's shares.

    Retail shareholders often invest in United Continental Holdings due to their belief in the airline's brand, market position, or growth prospects. Owning shares of the company allows them to participate in its success and potentially benefit from any future appreciation in the stock price.

    Overall, the ownership of United Continental Holdings is a combination of major institutional shareholders, insiders, and retail investors. This diverse ownership structure reflects the confidence and belief of different types of investors in the company's potential for growth and profitability.

    What is the mission statement of United Continental Holdings?


    A mission statement is a concise and powerful statement that defines the purpose and goals of an organization. It serves as a guiding principle, outlining the company's direction and providing a framework for decision-making and strategy development. In the case of United Continental Holdings, the mission statement plays a vital role in driving their business and shaping their corporate culture.

    The Mission Statement of United Continental Holdings

    United Continental Holdings, the parent company of United Airlines, has a clear and well-defined mission statement that reflects their commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction. The mission statement of United Continental Holdings is:

    "To be the world's leading airline, offering the most comprehensive network of global destinations, industry-leading customer service, and innovative technology solutions."

    Analysis of the Mission Statement

    Let's break down the mission statement of United Continental Holdings to understand its key components and implications.

    1. "To be the world's leading airline": This statement reflects United Continental Holdings' ambition to be at the forefront of the airline industry. It signifies their aspiration to surpass competitors and become the preferred choice for travelers worldwide. This goal indicates the company's focus on growth, market leadership, and achieving a dominant position in the industry.

    2. "Offering the most comprehensive network of global destinations": United Continental Holdings recognizes the importance of connectivity and accessibility for travelers. By emphasizing a comprehensive network of global destinations, the company aims to cater to the diverse travel needs of their customers. This aspect highlights their commitment to expanding routes and destinations, allowing passengers to reach any corner of the globe conveniently.

    3. "Industry-leading customer service": Customer satisfaction is a top priority for United Continental Holdings. This part of the mission statement emphasizes the company's commitment to delivering exceptional customer service. By striving to be an industry leader in this aspect, United Continental Holdings aims to create a positive and memorable travel experience for their passengers. This focus aligns with their goal of building strong customer loyalty and enhancing their reputation.

    4. "Innovative technology solutions": United Continental Holdings acknowledges the significance of technology in today's fast-paced world. By mentioning innovative technology solutions, the company demonstrates their commitment to leveraging technological advancements to enhance the travel experience. This aspect highlights their intention to invest in cutting-edge technologies, such as mobile apps, self-service kiosks, and digital platforms, to streamline processes and provide convenience to their customers.


    The mission statement of United Continental Holdings encapsulates their vision for success, highlighting their aspirations to become the world's leading airline through a comprehensive network of global destinations, industry-leading customer service, and innovative technology solutions. This mission statement serves as a guiding principle for the company, shaping their strategies and driving their commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction.

    How does United Continental Holdings make money?

    Revenue Streams of United Continental Holdings

    United Continental Holdings generates revenue through various streams. Here are the primary sources of income for the airline:

    1. Passenger Revenue

    Passenger revenue constitutes the largest portion of United Continental Holdings' income. This revenue stream is generated from the sale of tickets to passengers for both domestic and international flights. It includes revenue from various fare classes, such as economy, business, and first class. Additionally, the airline earns revenue from charges for extra services like baggage fees, seat selection, and in-flight amenities.

    2. Cargo Revenue

    United Continental Holdings also earns a significant portion of its revenue from cargo operations. The airline offers cargo transportation services for both commercial and individual customers. This includes transporting various goods, such as perishable products, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and other valuable or time-sensitive items. Cargo revenue is influenced by global trade dynamics and demand for air freight services.

    3. Ancillary Revenue

    Ancillary revenue refers to the income generated from non-ticket sources. United Continental Holdings offers a range of ancillary products and services to enhance the travel experience and generate additional revenue. These may include sales of duty-free items, onboard food and beverage sales, travel insurance, airport lounge access, and partnerships with car rental companies and hotels. Ancillary revenue diversifies the company's income stream and helps increase profitability.

    4. MileagePlus Program

    United Continental Holdings operates a loyalty program called MileagePlus, which contributes to its revenue stream. The program allows members to earn miles through flights and various partner activities, such as credit card usage and hotel bookings. Members can redeem their accumulated miles for flights, seat upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, and other rewards. The airline benefits from the program by selling miles to partners and generating revenue from the redemption fees and associated travel bookings.

    5. Other Revenue Streams

    United Continental Holdings also generates income from other sources. This includes revenue from code-sharing agreements with partner airlines, where both parties benefit from shared flights and passenger traffic. Additionally, the company may earn revenue from charter and special flight operations for corporations, sports teams, government entities, and other organizations.

    Overall, United Continental Holdings' revenue streams are diverse and interconnected, enabling the company to generate income from various aspects of its operations and provide a comprehensive travel experience to its customers.

    United Continental Holdings Business Model Canvas Explained

    What is the Business Model Canvas?

    The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management tool that allows organizations to describe, design, challenge, and pivot their business models. It provides a holistic view of a company's key activities, resources, partnerships, and value propositions, among other elements. By using the Business Model Canvas, businesses can identify and analyze the various components of their operations and make informed decisions to optimize their overall performance.

    Understanding United Continental Holdings' Business Model Canvas

    United Continental Holdings is a major player in the airline industry, operating under the United Airlines and Continental Airlines brands. Let's delve into the key components of their Business Model Canvas:

    Key Partnerships:

    United Continental Holdings has established strategic partnerships with various entities to enhance its operations. These partnerships include agreements with other airlines for code-sharing, joint ventures, and alliances, allowing United Continental Holdings to expand its reach and offer an extensive global network to its customers. Additionally, the company collaborates with airports, suppliers, and technology providers to ensure a seamless travel experience.

    Key Activities:

    The key activities of United Continental Holdings revolve around providing air transportation services to both domestic and international destinations. These activities include flight operations, maintenance and repair services, customer service, marketing and sales, as well as managing its network of routes and flight schedules. Furthermore, the company invests in technology and innovation to improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience.

    Key Resources:

    To deliver its services effectively, United Continental Holdings relies on a variety of key resources. These resources include a vast fleet of aircraft, which are essential for transporting passengers and cargo. The company also requires a highly skilled workforce, encompassing pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and other personnel, to ensure safe and efficient operations. Additionally, United Continental Holdings relies on its brand reputation, customer relationships, and technological infrastructure as valuable resources in the highly competitive airline industry.

    Value Propositions:

    United Continental Holdings aims to provide value to its customers through various offerings. These value propositions include a wide range of flight options, convenient travel schedules, competitive fares, and a loyalty program, known as MileagePlus, which rewards frequent travelers. By catering to customer needs and preferences, United Continental Holdings strives to differentiate itself and create a unique value proposition in the market.

    Customer Segments:

    United Continental Holdings targets a diverse range of customer segments, including business travelers, leisure travelers, and international travelers. The company offers different services and features tailored to the specific needs of each segment, ensuring a personalized and satisfactory travel experience.


    United Continental Holdings utilizes multiple channels to reach and interact with its customers. These channels include its official website, mobile applications, ticketing counters at airports, call centers, and travel agencies. By providing various touchpoints, United Continental Holdings aims to offer convenience and accessibility to its customers, allowing them to book flights, manage reservations, and access relevant information effortlessly.

    Revenue Streams:

    United Continental Holdings generates revenue primarily through the sale of air transportation services. This includes revenue from passenger ticket sales, ancillary services such as baggage fees, and cargo transportation. The company also generates revenue from partnerships and alliances, as well as from its loyalty program through the sale of miles to partner companies.


    United Continental Holdings' Business Model Canvas provides a comprehensive overview of the company's operations, highlighting its key partnerships, activities, resources, value propositions, customer segments, channels, and revenue streams. By understanding and analyzing these components, United Continental Holdings can make informed decisions to continuously improve its business model and maintain a competitive edge in the airline industry.

    Which companies are the competitors of United Continental Holdings?

    Major Competitors of United Continental Holdings

    United Continental Holdings, a major player in the airline industry, faces competition from several other carriers. These competitors, both domestic and international, strive to capture a significant market share and attract passengers with their unique offerings. Here are some of the major companies that compete directly with United Continental Holdings:

    1. American Airlines Group: As the largest airline in the world by fleet size and revenue, American Airlines Group is a formidable rival to United Continental Holdings. Both carriers offer extensive domestic and international routes, targeting a similar customer base. With their frequent flyer programs, loyalty perks, and focus on customer experience, American Airlines Group competes fiercely with United Continental Holdings for market dominance.

    2. Delta Air Lines: Delta Air Lines is another major competitor that vies for customers in the airline industry. With an extensive network of routes and a strong presence in both domestic and international markets, Delta offers a tough challenge to United Continental Holdings. Both carriers continuously strive to enhance their services and improve operational efficiency to attract and retain passengers.

    3. Southwest Airlines: While United Continental Holdings primarily focuses on full-service flights, Southwest Airlines takes a different approach by offering low-cost, no-frills travel. As one of the largest low-cost carriers in the world, Southwest Airlines competes with United Continental Holdings on various domestic routes. Their emphasis on affordability and simplicity attracts budget-conscious travelers, posing a competitive threat to United Continental Holdings' market share.

    4. International Carriers: United Continental Holdings also faces competition from international carriers operating in the same markets. Companies like British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, and Emirates provide alternative options for passengers traveling to and from the United States. These carriers offer their own unique services, including premium cabin experiences, enticing frequent flyer programs, and extensive global networks, all of which compete with United Continental Holdings.

    In this highly competitive industry, United Continental Holdings continuously strategizes to differentiate itself and maintain its position as a leading player. By focusing on customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, route expansion, and technological advancements, United Continental Holdings aims to stay ahead of its rivals and deliver exceptional travel experiences to its passengers.

    United Continental Holdings SWOT Analysis


    • Strong brand recognition: United Continental Holdings is a well-established airline with a strong brand presence globally. The company's merger with Continental Airlines in 2010 has further enhanced its brand image and customer base.

    • Extensive route network: United Continental Holdings operates a vast network of routes, both domestically and internationally. This allows the company to serve a wide range of destinations and cater to the needs of various customer segments.

    • Comprehensive alliance partnerships: United Continental Holdings has formed strategic alliances with other major airlines, such as Star Alliance, which enables it to offer customers a wider range of flight options and seamless connectivity.

    • Efficient operational capabilities: The company has made significant investments in improving its operational efficiency, which has resulted in reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction. This includes investments in technology, fleet modernization, and streamlined processes.


    • Customer service issues: United Continental Holdings has faced several instances of poor customer service, leading to negative publicity and customer dissatisfaction. This includes incidents such as mishandling of baggage, overbooking, and rude behavior of staff members. These issues have impacted the company's reputation and customer loyalty.

    • High operational costs: Despite efforts to improve efficiency, United Continental Holdings still faces relatively high operational costs compared to some of its competitors. This includes expenses related to fuel, labor, and maintenance, which can put pressure on the company's profitability.

    • Aging fleet: The company's fleet consists of a significant number of older aircraft, which can result in higher maintenance costs and lower fuel efficiency. This puts United Continental Holdings at a disadvantage compared to airlines with newer and more fuel-efficient fleets.

    • Dependence on air travel demand: United Continental Holdings is highly dependent on the demand for air travel, which is influenced by various factors such as the economy, fuel prices, and travel restrictions. Any decline in travel demand can significantly impact the company's financial performance.


    • Growing demand for air travel: The global demand for air travel is expected to continue growing in the coming years, driven by factors such as increasing disposable incomes, rising tourism, and business travel. This presents an opportunity for United Continental Holdings to capture a larger market share and increase revenue.

    • Expansion into emerging markets: United Continental Holdings has the opportunity to expand its operations into emerging markets, where there is high growth potential. This includes countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, where there is a growing middle class and increasing air travel demand.

    • Digital transformation: The ongoing digital transformation in the airline industry presents opportunities for United Continental Holdings to enhance customer experience, optimize operations, and improve efficiency. This includes investments in digital platforms, mobile applications, and data analytics.

    • Sustainable initiatives: The growing focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility presents an opportunity for United Continental Holdings to invest in eco-friendly initiatives. This can include measures such as reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy, and adopting more sustainable practices.


    • Intense competition: The airline industry is highly competitive, with numerous players vying for market share. United Continental Holdings faces strong competition from both legacy carriers and low-cost airlines, which can impact its pricing power and profitability.

    • Economic volatility: Fluctuations in the global economy, such as recessions or financial crises, can have a significant impact on the demand for air travel. Economic downturns can lead to reduced travel budgets, lower consumer spending, and a decrease in business travel.

    • Regulatory challenges: The airline industry is subject to various regulations and policies, including those related to safety, security, and environmental standards. Changes in regulations or the introduction of new policies can increase compliance costs and affect the company's operations.

    • Geopolitical risks: Political instability, conflicts, terrorism, or natural disasters in key markets can disrupt air travel and impact United Continental Holdings' operations. These risks can lead to flight cancellations, route suspensions, and increased security measures, thus affecting the company's revenue and reputation.

    Key Takeaways

    • United Continental Holdings is owned by a diverse group of institutional and individual investors, with no single majority owner.

    • The mission statement of United Continental Holdings is to connect people and unite the world, offering safe, reliable, and sustainable air travel.

    • United Continental Holdings primarily generates revenue through the sale of passenger air transportation, cargo services, and ancillary products such as in-flight amenities and upgrades.

    • The Business Model Canvas of United Continental Holdings encompasses key elements such as value proposition, customer segments, channels, revenue streams, and cost structure.

    • Major competitors of United Continental Holdings include other major airlines like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

    • In a SWOT analysis, United Continental Holdings has strengths such as a strong global route network and a loyal customer base, but also faces weaknesses like high operating costs and potential labor disputes. Opportunities include growing demand for air travel in emerging markets, while threats arise from intense competition and external factors like fuel price volatility.


    In conclusion, United Continental Holdings is owned by a diverse group of shareholders, including institutional investors and individual shareholders. The mission statement of the company emphasizes its commitment to providing safe, reliable, and customer-focused air travel services.

    United Continental Holdings generates revenue through various channels, including passenger ticket sales, cargo transportation, and ancillary services such as baggage fees and onboard purchases. The company's business model canvas highlights key aspects such as value proposition, customer segments, and key activities that contribute to its success.

    In terms of competition, United Continental Holdings faces fierce competition from other major airlines such as Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. These companies constantly strive to attract and retain customers through competitive pricing, enhanced services, and innovative strategies.

    Lastly, a SWOT analysis of United Continental Holdings reveals its strengths in terms of its extensive route network and strong brand recognition, as well as weaknesses such as high operating costs and vulnerability to economic downturns. Opportunities lie in expanding international markets and technological advancements, while threats include intense competition and regulatory challenges.

    Overall, United Continental Holdings operates in a dynamic and competitive industry, constantly adapting to market changes and striving to provide exceptional air travel experiences for its customers.


    How can I find a SWOT analysis on a company?

    There are several ways to find a SWOT analysis on a company. Here are a few methods:

    1. Company Websites: Many companies publish their SWOT analysis on their official websites. Look for sections like "About Us," "Investor Relations," or "Corporate Profile" where they might provide strategic information about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

    2. Annual Reports: Publicly traded companies are required to publish annual reports that often include a SWOT analysis. These reports can be found on the company's website or through financial databases such as Bloomberg, SEC's EDGAR, or Morningstar.

    3. Business Databases: Utilize business databases like Hoovers, MarketLine, or IBISWorld. These platforms provide comprehensive reports on various companies, including SWOT analysis.

    4. Business News and Analysis Websites: Websites like Reuters, Bloomberg, or Forbes often publish analysis and reports on companies, including SWOT analysis. Use their search functions to find relevant articles or reports.

    5. Market Research Reports: Market research firms such as Statista, Gartner, or Euromonitor International often produce reports on specific industries or companies that include SWOT analysis. These reports are usually available for purchase or subscription.

    6. Academic Journals: Scholarly journals like Emerald Insight, JSTOR, or ScienceDirect sometimes publish SWOT analyses for specific companies, especially in the fields of business, marketing, or management. Access to these journals may require a subscription or login through an educational institution.

    Remember to critically evaluate the sources you find and consider multiple perspectives to get a well-rounded view of the company's SWOT analysis.

    What are the four 4 parts of SWOT analysis?

    The four parts of SWOT analysis are:

    1. Strengths: These are the internal factors that give an organization an advantage over its competitors. It includes resources, capabilities, and other positive aspects that can be leveraged to achieve goals.

    2. Weaknesses: These are the internal factors that place an organization at a disadvantage compared to its competitors. It includes limitations, vulnerabilities, and areas that need improvement.

    3. Opportunities: These are the external factors that could potentially benefit an organization. It includes market trends, emerging technologies, and other favorable conditions that can be capitalized upon.

    4. Threats: These are the external factors that could potentially harm an organization. It includes competition, economic downturns, changing consumer preferences, and other challenges that need to be addressed.

    Is United Continental Holdings the same as United Airlines?

    Yes, United Continental Holdings is the parent company of United Airlines. United Continental Holdings was formed as a result of a merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines in 2010.

    What are the weaknesses of United Airlines?

    Some of the weaknesses of United Airlines include:

    1. Customer service issues: United Airlines has faced criticism and negative publicity in the past for incidents involving customer mistreatment and poor service. This has damaged the airline's reputation and customer satisfaction levels.

    2. Operational inefficiencies: United Airlines has faced operational challenges, such as flight delays and cancellations, baggage mishandling, and overbooking. These issues have caused inconvenience to passengers and affected the overall customer experience.

    3. Aging fleet: United Airlines has an aging fleet compared to some of its competitors. This can lead to higher maintenance costs, lower fuel efficiency, and potential reliability issues, affecting the overall performance of the airline.

    4. Limited network in some regions: While United Airlines has a strong presence in many areas, it may have limited connectivity and route options in certain regions. This can make it less competitive compared to airlines with more extensive networks.

    5. Union tensions: United Airlines has experienced conflicts and tensions with its labor unions in the past. These disputes can disrupt operations, lead to strikes, and negatively impact employee morale, which in turn affects customer service.

    6. Pricing and fee structure: Some customers have criticized United Airlines for its pricing and fee structure, including additional charges for services such as checked baggage, seat selection, and flight changes. This can lead to dissatisfaction among price-sensitive travelers and make them choose alternative airlines.

    7. Reputation management: The airline has faced several high-profile incidents, such as the passenger-dragging incident in 2017, which resulted in negative media coverage and public perception. It takes significant effort and time to rebuild and manage a damaged reputation effectively.

    8. Competition: United Airlines faces stiff competition from other major airlines, both domestically and internationally. Competitors may offer better pricing, more attractive loyalty programs, and superior customer service, making it challenging for United Airlines to differentiate itself and retain customers.

    It is important to note that weaknesses can vary over time, and airlines may actively work to address and improve upon these weaknesses.

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