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United shifts 787s to Washington Dulles from Houston

United Airlines will shift Boeing 787 flying to its Washington Dulles hub from Houston Intercontinental this winter, when it closes its 787 pilot base at its Texas hub.

The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier will fly 787s to Beijing, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Sao Paulo Guarulhos from Dulles beginning in its winter of 2017 schedule, said Howard Attarian, senior vice-president of flight operations at United, in a letter to pilots on 6 April viewed by FlightGlobal.

The IATA winter 2017 schedule begins on 29 October.

At the same time, United will close its 787 base at Houston Intercontinental and replace the Dreamliner with a Boeing 777-200 on Houston-Frankfurt flights and a Boeing 767-300ER on Houston-Buenos Aires flights, says Attarian.

No routes will be discontinued from Houston because of the change, he says.

"Changes to our 787 flying will effectively add an entire 787 aircraft to our fleet for free," says Attarian.

United operates 12 787-8s and 20 787-9s, including two of four 787-9 deliveries due this year, the Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

Houston was the airline's first pilot base for the 787 when deliveries began in 2012. It has since opened bases for the type in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Washington Dulles represents United's first primarily Atlantic base for the 787. While FlightGlobal schedules show it already flies the type to London and Paris, the Dreamliner will replace a 777-200 to Beijing and a 767-400ER to Sao Paulo.

The 787 move is latest from United in a larger effort to raise aircraft utilisation across its fleet. Earlier this week, Attarian told pilots that the airline would shift three Boeing 737s to the US mainland from its Guam hub in the winter schedule. The move will allow it to nearly double daily aircraft utilisation to around eight hours, he said.

The airline will end Seoul Incheon-Tokyo Narita flights on October, and possibly other routes from Guam, with the 737 relocations.

"Improving our fleet utilisation is an important initiative underway at United," says Attarian. "By flying our aircraft harder each day, we can grow the airline without actually adding aircraft to our fleet."

United is increasing system capacity by 2.5% to 3.5% this year, growth that chief executive Oscar Munoz has said is largely driven by increased utilisation. The largest increases will be in the domestic market while international growth will be more measured.

The carrier plans to add six Airbus A319s, four 737-800s, 12 777-300ERs and three 787-9s to its mainline fleet and 24 Embraer 175s to its regional fleet in 2017. It will also remove its last 20 Boeing 747-400s during the year.

United has taken delivery of six 777s and two 787s to date this year, Fleets Analyzer shows.

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