United remains committed to making a narrowbody decision this year

Washington DC
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Fresh from finalising orders with Airbus and Boeing for the A350 and 787, United is sticking to a previous declaration of making a narrowbody selection this year.

Carrier CFO Kathryn Mikells during a recent presentation at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference explained United concluded that combining its widebody and narrowbody order was not optimal compared to running two separate campaigns.

Mikells explains United plans to "look at the full range of opportunity in terms of what is available to make the optimal decision for the company".

Shortly after United placed its split order between Airbus and Boeing in December, reports emerged that the carrier invited Bombardier and Embraer to join discussions regarding its narrowbody order.

Recently, both Airbus and Boeing have indicated they intend to make a decision about re-engining the A320 and 737 this year, while Bombardier recently secured a North American launch customer for the CSeries with Republic Airways Holdings ordering 40 138-seat CS300s.

Embraer has recently disclosed its study of a stretch of the largest member of its E-Jet family, the E-195. The airframer expects to decide to launch the E-195X variant or another type of aircraft in mid-2011.

Another possible option to United could be a twin-aisle narrowbody. Pratt & Whitney recently stated interest among airlines is growing in a lightweight, twin-aisle model, and that its geared turbofan engine could supply 40,000lb of thrust to support the application.

Mikells says that prior to United's decision in 2008 to retire its 737 classic fleet, the carrier would use investor forums as an outlet to "talk about the need for next generation narrowbody replacement".

United is pleased the 737 replacement issue has "been taken off the table", says Mikells. "That gives us a lot of flexibility as we look forward to our long-term fleet replacement strategy for narrowbodies."

Flightglobal's ACAS database shows United currently operates 97 A320s and 54 A319s. The carrier also operated 96 Boeing 757-200s.