United Continental Holdings SWOT Analysis / Matrix

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SWOT analysis is a vital strategic planning tool that can be used by United Continental Holdings managers to do a situational analysis of the organization . It is a useful technique to map out the present Strengths (S), Weakness (W), Opportunities (O) & Threats (T) United Continental Holdings is facing in its current business environment.

The United Continental Holdings is one of the leading organizatations in its industry. United Continental Holdings maintains its prominent position in market by carefully analyzing and reviewing the SWOT analysis.  SWOT analysis a highly interactive process and requires effective coordination among various departments within the firm such as – marketing, finance, operations, management information systems and strategic planning.

The SWOT Analysis framework enables an organization to identify the internal strategic factors such as -strengths and weaknesses, & external strategic factors such as - opportunities and threats. It leads to a 2X2 matrix – also called SWOT Matrix.

The Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) Analysis / Matrix helps the managers of the United Continental Holdings to develop four types of strategies:

  • SO (strengths-opportunities) Strategies
  • WO (weaknesses-opportunities) Strategies
  • ST (strengths-threats) Strategies
  •  WT (weaknesses-threats) Strategies
United Continental Holdings swot analysis / matrix

SWOT Matrix Strategies Objective

The core purpose of SWOT matrix is to identify the strategies that a firm can use to exploit external opportunities, counter threats, and build on & protect United Continental Holdings strengths, and eradicate its weaknesses.

Step by Step Guide to United Continental Holdings SWOT Analysis

Strengths of United Continental Holdings – Internal Strategic Factors


As one of the leading firms in its industry, United Continental Holdings has numerous strengths that help it to thrive in the market place. These strengths not only help it to protect the market share in existing markets but also help in penetrating new markets. Based on Fern Fort University extensive research – some of the strengths of United Continental Holdings are –

  • Highly skilled workforce through successful training and learning programs. United Continental Holdings is investing huge resources in training and development of its employees resulting in a workforce that is not only highly skilled but also motivated to achieve more.
  • Good Returns on Capital Expenditure – United Continental Holdings is relatively successful at execution of new projects and generated good returns on capital expenditure by building new revenue streams.
  • Reliable suppliers – It has a strong base of reliable supplier of raw material thus enabling the company to overcome any supply chain bottlenecks.
  • Strong distribution network – Over the years United Continental Holdings has built a reliable distribution network that can reach majority of its potential market.
  • Strong Free Cash Flow – United Continental Holdings has strong free cash flows that provide resources in the hand of the company to expand into new projects.
  • Automation of activities brought consistency of quality to United Continental Holdings products and has enabled the company to scale up and scale down based on the demand conditions in the market.
  • Successful track record of developing new products – product innovation.
  • Highly successful at Go To Market strategies for its products.


Weakness of United Continental Holdings – Internal Strategic Factors


Weakness are the areas where United Continental Holdings can improve upon. Strategy is about making choices and weakness are the areas where a company can improve using SWOT analysis and build on its competitive advantage and strategic positioning.

  • Not very good at product demand forecasting leading to higher rate of missed opportunities compare to its competitors. One of the reason why the days inventory is high compare to its competitors is that United Continental Holdings is not very good at demand forecasting thus end up keeping higher inventory both in-house and in channel.
  • The profitability ratio and Net Contribution % of United Continental Holdings are below the industry average.
  • High attrition rate in work force – compare to other organizations in the industry United Continental Holdings has a higher attrition rate and have to spend a lot more compare to its competitors on training and development of its employees.
  • Financial planning is not done properly and efficiently. The current asset ratio and liquid asset ratios suggest that the company can use the cash more efficiently than what it is doing at present.
  • The marketing of the products left a lot to be desired. Even though the product is a success in terms of sale but its positioning and unique selling proposition is not clearly defined which can lead to the attacks in this segment from the competitors.
  • Investment in Research and Development is below the fastest growing players in the industry. Even though United Continental Holdings is spending above the industry average on Research and Development, it has not been able to compete with the leading players in the industry in terms of innovation. It has come across as a mature firm looking forward to bring out products based on tested features in the market.
  • There are gaps in the product range sold by the company. This lack of choice can give a new competitor a foothold in the market.

Opportunities for United Continental Holdings – External Strategic Factors

  • Opening up of new markets because of government agreement – the adoption of new technology standard and government free trade agreement has provided United Continental Holdings an opportunity to enter a new emerging market.
  • The new technology provides an opportunity to United Continental Holdings to practices differentiated pricing strategy in the new market. It will enable the firm to maintain its loyal customers with great service and lure new customers through other value oriented propositions.
  • Economic uptick and increase in customer spending, after years of recession and slow growth rate in the industry, is an opportunity for United Continental Holdings to capture new customers and increase its market share.
  • New trends in the consumer behavior can open up new market for the United Continental Holdings . It provides a great opportunity for the organization to build new revenue streams and diversify into new product categories too.
  • Lower inflation rate – The low inflation rate bring more stability in the market, enable credit at lower interest rate to the customers of United Continental Holdings.
  • Government green drive also opens an opportunity for procurement of United Continental Holdings products by the state as well as federal government contractors.
  • Decreasing cost of transportation because of lower shipping prices can also bring down the cost of United Continental Holdings’s products thus providing an opportunity to the company - either to boost its profitability or pass on the benefits to the customers to gain market share.
  • Organization’s core competencies can be a success in similar other products field. A comparative example could be - GE healthcare research helped it in developing better Oil drilling machines.

Threats United Continental Holdings Facing - External Strategic Factors

  • Imitation of the counterfeit and low quality product is also a threat to United Continental Holdings’s product especially in the emerging markets and low income markets.
  • Shortage of skilled workforce in certain global market represents a threat to steady growth of profits for United Continental Holdings   in those markets.
  • Growing strengths of local distributors also presents a threat in some markets as the competition is paying higher margins to the local distributors.
  • Rising pay level especially movements such as $15 an hour and increasing prices in the China can lead to serious pressure on profitability of United Continental Holdings
  • Increasing trend toward isolationism in the American economy can lead to similar reaction from other government thus negatively impacting the international sales.
  • Liability laws in different countries are different and United Continental Holdings may be exposed to various liability claims given change in policies in those markets.
  • No regular supply of innovative products – Over the years the company has developed numerous products but those are often response to the development by other players. Secondly the supply of new products is not regular thus leading to high and low swings in the sales number over period of time.
  • The demand of the highly profitable products is seasonal in nature and any unlikely event during the peak season may impact the profitability of the company in short to medium term.

Limitations of SWOT Analysis for United Continental Holdings

Although the SWOT analysis is widely used as a strategic planning tool, the analysis does have its share of limitations.

  • Certain capabilities or factors of an organization can be both a strength and weakness at the same time. This is one of the major limitations of SWOT analysis . For example changing environmental regulations can be both a threat to company it can also be an opportunity in a sense that it will enable the company to be on a level playing field or at advantage to competitors if it able to develop the products faster than the competitors.
  • SWOT does not show how to achieve a competitive advantage, so it must not be an end in itself.
  • The matrix is only a starting point for a discussion on how proposed strategies could be implemented. It provided an evaluation window but not an implementation plan based on strategic competitiveness of United Continental Holdings
  • SWOT is a static assessment - analysis of status quo with few prospective changes. As circumstances, capabilities, threats, and strategies change, the dynamics of a competitive environment may not be revealed in a single matrix.
  • SWOT analysis may lead the firm to overemphasize a single internal or external factor in formulating strategies. There are interrelationships among the key internal and external factors that SWOT does not reveal that may be important in devising strategies.

Weighted SWOT Analysis of United Continental Holdings

In light of the above mentioned limitations of the SWOT analysis / matrix, corporate managers decided to provide weightage to each internal strength and weakness of the firm. Organizations also assess the likelihood of events taking place in the coming future and how strong their impact could be on company's performance.

This method is called Weighted SWOT analysis. It is better than doing simplistic SWOT analysis because with Weighted SWOT Analysis United Continental Holdings managers can focus on the most critical factors and discount the non-important one. It also solves the long list problem where organizations ends up making a long list but none of the factors deemed too critical.

Limitation of Weighted SWOT analysis of United Continental Holdings

This approach also suffers from one major drawback - it focus on individual importance of factor rather than how they are collectively important and impact the business holistically.

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Example of Weighted SWOT Analysis

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SWOT Worksheet & Template

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References / Citations & Bibliography

  • M. E. Porter, Competitive Strategy(New York: Free Press, 1980)
  • A. D. Chandler, Strategy and Structure (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1962)
  • O. E. Williamson, Markets and Hierarchies(New York: Free Press, 1975);
  • L. Wrigley, Divisional Autonomy and Diversification (PhD, Harvard Business School, 1970)
  • R. E. White, Generic Business Strategies, Organizational Context and Performance: An Empirical Investigation, Strategic Management Journal7 (1986)