United Airlines is moving closer to flying its new Boeing 787-10 to Europe, with president Scott Kirby calling it a "phenomenal European" aircraft.

The Chicago-based carrier will take its first three of the longest Dreamliner variant later this year, with plans to introduce it on flights in early 2019. It has not said where the aircraft will be based, though internal communications with pilots have suggested that it will initially fly from Newark.

"They're a phenomenal European airplane," says Kirby of the 787-10 at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Denver. "They will almost certainly fly a lot of Chicago, Newark and [Washington] Dulles to Europe."

Asked if the aircraft will be based at Newark first, he says he cannot remember.

United will configure the 787-10 with 318 seats, a 15% jump from the up to 276 seats on its Boeing 777-200s which fly 40% of its European services from Chicago, Newark and Dulles, FlightGlobal schedules shows.

Newark is the airline's largest transatlantic gateway, with nearly 35% of its capacity to the region passing through the airport, the data shows. Dulles handles 21% of its European capacity and Chicago nearly 16%.

The 787-10 is widely viewed as a good aircraft for higher-density routes where airlines do not need the additional range of either of the smaller Dreamliner variants but seek improved economics.

The transatlantic market fits these characteristics, with most European markets not needing the additional range capabilities of the smaller 787-8 or -9 for flights from the US East Coast. For example, the busy route between Chicago and Frankfurt - home base of United's joint venture partner Lufthansa - is 3,775nm whereas the range of the -10 is listed as 6,430nm.

United has firm orders for four 787-9s, which will replacing older Boeing 767-300ERs in its fleet, and 14 787-10s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

Source: Cirium Dashboard