United Airlines plans to transfer 40 narrowbody aircraft to its new low-fare division during the first year of operation.

In a message to airline employees, United's vice-president for the new unit Sean Donahue says that destination cities and routes are being finalised for the operation, which has been nicknamed Starfish by the company. Although Donahue reveals that 40 aircraft will be assigned to the division,details of the start date or aircraft types involved have not been revealed.

United's restructuring plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection includes the creation of a low-fares carrier to win back revenue it is losing to airlines such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. United's current business model was designed primarily to serve its frequent business customers, labelled "road warriors", but this critical segment of its business has been in rapid decline.

United has indicated that it expects to position the new carrier as a distinctive, low-cost brand, operating higher utilisation than the mainline fleet with independent management and labour costs that would compete directly against those of low-cost rivals. The major has also indicated that it ultimately sees the low-cost carrier operating a fleet of 134 narrowbodies serving 37 cities.

Source: Flight International