United Airlines may not base its first Boeing 777-300ERs at its Newark hub, with chief commercial officer Julia Haywood saying the decision has yet to be made.

“We haven’t announced where it’s going to be based but you can imagine places like San Francisco and Newark where there are developed markets that are very long haul that work very, very well for us,” she said on the sidelines of a media preview of the Chicago-based carrier’s new Polaris business class lounge at Chicago O’Hare on 30 November.

United executives, including former chief revenue officer Jim Compton and former vice-president of network Brian Znotins, previously named Newark as the likely base for the 777-300ERs on multiple occasions.

“The plan is the lion’s share of [the 777-300ERs] will go to Newark out of the first 14 we’re taking,” said Znotins in August.

The aircraft would be used on “long transatlantic” routes with high demand, he said in September before an unexpected departure to Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet.

Haywood’s step back from these previous statements on United’s plans for its 777-300ERs is in line with the strategy shift that was outlined at an investor day earlier in November.

Plans include a restructuring of the carrier’s domestic schedule to grow and recapture lost market share, implementation of a long-awaited cabin segmentation initiative to generate additional revenue, and the deferral of 61 Boeing 737 deliveries to after 2018.

In addition, United chief financial officer Andrew Levy said that the carrier planned to reevaluate its pending widebody deliveries following the narrowbody deferrals.

A change to United’s 777-300ER strategy is not surprising when considered with the ones unveiled last month.

The aircraft will be used on “thick and meaningful” longer-haul routes, says Haywood, even as she declines to comment on where they will be based.

Potential routes from Newark that fit the descriptions of both Haywood and Znotins include Delhi, Frankfurt, Mumbai and Tel Aviv, a mix of longer-haul spokes and service to partner hubs. These markets are currently served by 267-seat 777-200 aircraft.

FlightGlobal understands that United will configure its 777-300ERs with 366 seats, including 60 in its new Polaris business class, 102 in economy plus and 204 in economy. Haywood declines to comment on the configuration.

The number of potential 777-300ER routes is greater out of San Francisco. United could use the aircraft to replace retiring Boeing 747-400s, which have 374 seats, on flights to Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo Narita.

United is expected to announce its first markets for the new 777 shortly. It will take delivery of the first aircraft later this month and plans to debut it on domestic routes in February 2017, before shifting it to international routes early in the second quarter.

The carrier has firm orders for 14 777-300ERs.

Source: Cirium Dashboard