The Failure of Ted: United's Budget Airline

The Failure of Ted: United’s Budget Airline


United Airlines is known for a lot of things, being one of the biggest US airlines, their poor customer service, and the dragging. However, a small thing that went mostly unnoticed in United’s history was the creation and ultimate destruction of a budget airline under their brand. Known as Ted, this airline only operated budget flights to popular budget vacation destinations. However, exactly 11 years ago in 2009, the airline ceased full operation and converted back to United. Along with Song Airlines (Delta’s version of Ted), major airline subsidiary budget airlines failed and were dragged into the void. So that begs the question, how did Ted fail so bad? Well, lets head down the rabbit hole of Ted Airlines.

In November of 2003, seemingly out of the blue, United announced the creation of Ted. The airline was designed to appeal to Budget traveler and cash in on the massive success that airlines like Spirit and Frontier were getting with their budget flights. The carrier’s first flight wasn’t until February of 2004. The goal to form a hub in Denver and fly to US-based vacation destinations using the Airbus A320 family. It’s fleet consisted of a little less than 60 fairly new Airbus A320s The carrier also set up other hubs at places including Chicago (ORD), San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Surprisingly, the airline did moderately for how much United was putting into it. However, fast forward a few years later, and things began to go downhill. With the 2007-2008 financial crisis in full swing, fuel prices jacked way up. Even with the moderate success, Ted was pulling in for United, the fuel crisis along with cheaper and sometimes better alternatives to the airline began to take a toll on Ted.

United soon began to lose money on the airline. This was mostly due to the fuel prices, maintenance costs, and lack of passengers on the airline. In the summer of 2008, United came to the conclusion that Ted was a lost effort, and in June 2008, United announced that Ted would be closing down and that the aircraft would be reincorporated to United’s fleet and allow United to retire their aging fleet of Boeing 737-300s. Ted’s last flight was on January 6, 2009, with the final arrival in Denver.

Throughout the years, budget airlines have been slowly beginning to take over a portion of the aviation market. Airlines like Ryanair, Spirit, Easyjet, and Frontier have been really appealing to people wanting to travel cheap and fast. These airlines have seen massive financial success if done right. However, Ted was a budget airline that sadly was not done right. Mostly due to the fact of its operations. The airline lost more money than it could make in profit, and with the massive flop that was the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the airline was shot out of the water.

This is a cautionary tale that goes to show how budget airlines can fail if not done right. Sadly, Ted will never fly again. United cut their losses and learned their lesson, and this just goes to show how airlines will fail if not done right.

If you want more info, watch this video on how budget airlines work!


and yes i paraphrased a bit of it, sue me

And there is my story of Ted. If you enjoyed it, comment or like it! For now, I will be cruising once again. So long guys!


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My only memory of Ted was seeing one of those Daron toy models at Boeing’s Paine Field gift shop lol


Yup. Primera Air, WOW, etc.


Actually WOW was done mostly right as it had a bunch of success for a while, the reason it shut down was due to certain circumstances playing out.

Well… the model didn’t exactly work out.

Their expansion plans went terribly, as they cut destinations like Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas/Fort Worth, etc. rapidly.

Since they weren’t flying to these during the winter, they couldn’t connect passengers onward to Europe which was mainly their business model.

Europe’s low season is winter, which made it even worse.

Once Icelandair realized WOW was a threat, they also flooded the U.S. market with more available seats which hurt WOW even more.


I remember seeing Ted planes at DEN.

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I wonder I United will have a special livery with the TED tail?

I doubt it. Especially since it was a failure.


Ah yes. I remember seeing these golden tails back in the golden age at Las Vegas.

Very nice topic I got to say!

The airline industry is a very volatile one. Ted was a victim of this. The fuel prices caused its slow death with the 2008 financial crisis being the final nail in the coffin. Hopefully, most staff were reabsorbed into UA and no staff had to be laid off.

Hope they come back one day.

The entire airline was reabsorbed into United. The A320s are actually still flying today.

I mean it is United so I guess they deserved it 🤷‍♂️

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