United’s 787 playground in Asia

United Airlines 787 at Denver International. (United)

United Airlines Boeing 787 at Denver International. (United)

If you want to fly on a United Airlines Boeing 787, your best bet is to fly to Asia.

Of the Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier’s six international Dreamliner routes, five will be across the Pacific from 8 April 2014 when it downgauges its San Francisco-Osaka Kansai flights to the aircraft from a Boeing 777-200.

United Airlines 787 routes as of 8 April 2014. (Great Circle Mapper and Flightglobal)

United Airlines 787 routes as of 8 April 2014. (Great Circle Mapper and Flightglobal)

United officially touts putting the “right aircraft in the right markets to earn a sufficient return” for the Osaka aircraft shift, as well as its other 787 schedule decisions. Asia is a good place for this – a weak Japanese yen and increasing competition, specifically on routes to Australia, pushed passenger unit revenues down and took a toll on revenues at the airline during the second quarter.

Operational scale and ease of support are likely also contributing factors. Shakeel Adam, managing partner of aviation consultancy Aviado Partners, says that it is good to concentrate a new aircraft type in a certain market or select number of bases until operational scale of about 10 aircraft is reached for a new type.

United will have 10 787s in its fleet by April 2014, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

The airline also benefits from joint venture partner All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) – the largest operator of the 787 – support capabilities in Japan, as well as product consistency with the Japanese carrier by concentrating its Dreamliners in Asia, and especially Japan.

All of these reasons – and probably a few more – are likely driving United’s decision to concentrate its 787s across the Pacific, helping make the region a veritable playground of the new Boeing jet.

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