United’s 787 flexibility

United Airlines has a lot of flexibility in the 19 Boeing 787-8 deliveries that it has scheduled through 2015, finds a new Flightglobal Pro analysis.

Ron Baur, vice-president of fleet at the Chicago-based carrier, and Brian Znotins, vice-president of network, agreed that the aircraft could be used to replace ageing widebodies in its fleet or for growth if conditions warrant, during United’s first 787 revenue flight since January earlier in May.

United 787 takeoff

United Airlines

“[We] have a lot of aircraft coming off lease over the period,” said Znotins. “This creates options.”

United will have 156 widebody aircraft at the end of year – the same as at the end of 2011 – according to its latest fleet plan. This number could grow to 165 in 2014 and 164 in 2015, based on scheduled deliveries and lease expirations in Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database.

Up to nine more widebodies next year is a lot of potential growth for an airline that plans little or no increase in available seat miles (ASMs) during the period.

Baur said that United could use the 787s to replace ageing Boeing 767-200ERs and -300ERs, upgauge long-haul Boeing 757-200s or add capacity.

Znotins added that China and India are two “hot” markets that the carrier is watching right now but noted that any growth would have to be balanced between new frequencies to existing destinations in these markets – Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai and Shanghai – versus new routes.

Either way United has options, which is a good position to be in in the constantly changing airline business.

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