Playing planner with United’s 787s

With United Airlines’ first Boeing 787-8 (N20904) in Houston for a month of training and certifications, we can start thinking more about the carrier’s strategy for the aircraft.

We know that it will use the 787 to launch new international routes where a Boeing 777-200 is too big and a 767 does not have the range, as well as on existing routes during off-peak seasons. The only new route that has been announced is Denver to Tokyo Narita from 31 March 2013 but more are expected.

The other planned international services for the aircraft fit the off-peak plan and include: Houston Intercontinental to Amsterdam (4 December to 29 March 2013), Los Angeles to Tokyo (from 3 January 2013), Houston to Lagos (from 7 January 2013), Houston to London Heathrow (4 February 2013 to 29 March 2013), and Los Angeles to Shanghai (from 30 March 2013). It will also fly daily between Houston and Denver, as United’s 787 crews are based at Intercontinental for the time being.

UA_787_routes_Mar13.jpegPlanned United 787 international services (Great Circle Mapper)

United could really go anywhere next with its 787s. With its first five tied up through at least April 2013, I would expect some new low season routes, perhaps Newark to New Delhi, and maybe the launch of something like San Francisco to Auckland – a city that the airline clearly wants to serve - in the third quarter.

“We have been awaiting this day for a while and it’s worth every bit of the wait,” said Dave Hilfman, senior vice-president of sales at the carrier, during the rollout of its first 787 in August. “It’s going to be extraordinarily successful for United.”

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