With fewer new jets on the way than previously anticipated, United Airlines is offering unpaid time off to its pilots. 

The Chicago-based carrier confirmed on 1 April that constrained fleet growth caused by production issues at Boeing have prompted it to “significantly” lower expectations for block hour flying. 

”Due to the recent delays in Boeing deliveries, our forecasted block hours for 2024 have been reduced and we are offering our pilots voluntary programmes for the month of May to reduce excess staffing,” the company says. “We don’t have any further specifics to share at this time.”

A memo to United pilots, reviewed by FlightGlobal, says that, “While the delivery issues surround our 787 and 737 fleets, the impact will affect other fleets as well.” 

United’s voluntary time-off programmes may extend into summertime and fall in the USA. 

”As we enter the summer flying period… ongoing evaluations will be performed to determine the continuation of these and possibly other voluntary offerings,” the memo says. 

United 737 Max 9 970x550

Source: United Airlines

Boeing’s delivery delays and associated production issues are limiting United’s planned fleet growth

United has pivoted on multiple fronts in response to ongoing delays in certification of the 737 Max 10, and Boeing’s intertwined manufacturing and quality problems. Last month, chief executive Scott Kirby said that the carrier is considering the Airbus A321neo as a potential replacement for Max 10s that it recently dropped from its fleet plan. 

“We’ve asked Boeing to stop building Max 10s for us and build Max 9s,” Kirby said. “If and when the Max 10 gets certified, we’ll convert them back to Max 10s.”

The major US airline is expecting more than 100 fewer Boeing aircraft deliveries in 2024 than contractually agreed. In a 29 February regulatory filing, United said it now anticipates Boeing to deliver 63 aircraft to it in 2024, rather than the 165 it previously believed would arrive this year.

Pressure from the CEOs of United, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines reportedly factored into Boeing’s recent management overhaul, which will see the departure of CEO David Calhoun at the end of 2024. 

Former head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Stan Deal has already stepped down, replaced by long-time company executive Stephanie Pope.