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United considering ‘alternatives’ to A350-1000

United Airlines is considering “different alternatives” to the 35 Airbus A350-1000s that it has on order, says chief financial officer Andrew Levy.

“That’s an order we’re paying a lot of attention to and considering different alternatives,” he says during a presentation at the Stifel Transportation & Logistics conference today.

United is amid a fleet review with the focus now on its widebody orderbook. It adjusted its narrowbody orders last November when it converted its order for 65 Boeing 737-700s to four 737-800s due this year and 61 737 Max 8s due in the future.

The airline is scheduled to take delivery of its first A350 in 2018.

Speculation on the future of the A350 order has swirled following previous comments by United management that it was reviewing the order and the January decision to replace its Boeing 747-400 fleet with Boeing 777-300ERs. The A350s were ordered in 2009 as a replacement for the venerable jumbo jets, and United has maintained that as the plan up until recently.

One possibility is swapping the A350s for the Airbus A330neo as a replacement for the Boeing 767-300ERs in United’s fleet.

"The big open question for us is what’s going to replace our 767s," said Scott Kirby, president of United, in January.

Ordering A330-900s as a 767 replacement is not unprecedented. Delta Air Lines has ordered 25 of the re-engined A330s to replace some of the 767-300ERs in its fleet.

United could also tap the used widebody market, which Levy describes as having significant "opportunity", for a 767 replacement.

Levy reiterates United’s aim to complete the fleet review, which includes anything with deliveries more than 12 months away, soon. However, he adds that the airline has nothing to report yet.

“We do not comment on our conversations with our customers or potential customers," says an Airbus spokeswoman on Levy's comments.

United has widebody orders for 11 777-300ERs, four Boeing 787-9s and 14 787-10s, in addition to the A350s, the Flight Fleet Analyzer shows.

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