Chicago-based United Airlines has officially announced the conversion of ten of their orders for the Boeing 787-9 into orders for the Boeing 777-300ER. The Boeing 777-300ER is currently the largest twin-engine jet in mass production. This move will go towards replacing old, less efficient aircraft in the United fleet. With this order, United continues to show that they are loyal to Boeing and the 777 program as they were the first operator of the 777 in 1995.
United recently converted its remaining orders for Boeing’s 787-8 into orders for the 787-10, the largest variant of the fleet. Now, by the time all of United’s 787s are delivered, they will have 55 total including all three variants. The 787s are intended to replace the aging Boeing 767 fleet, as well as some of the older 777-200 aircraft. The 777-300ER helps United in replacing their fleet of 23 Boeing 747s in the short term.
With the coming on of 777X, Boeing is looking to sell as many current generation 777s as possible to avoid a production cut between the current generation 777 and the production of the 777x, which is slated to enter service in 2020. This is a reason for Boeing to offer current generation 777s at lower prices to carriers. The 777-300ER is a good solution for United to replace their aging 747-400s, which have a product that lacks behind almost every other wide-body aircraft. United has an order for 35 Airbus A350-1000s, but the first one is not scheduled for delivery until 2018. The 777s will likely be delivered before that date, allowing United to save money on fuel and release a more competitive product. United is looking ahead with this order as fuel prices are currently very cheap, but they will not stay this cheap.
United will become only the second United States carrier to operate the 777-300ER, along with American. United also plans to convert ten of their 777-200 non-ER aircraft into a domestic configuration. The ten 777-300ER aircraft will replace these aircraft internationally and will have even greater capabilities as well as aid in the capacity loss by retiring some of the 747s. The 777-300ER will likely feature a new product that will be superior to their 747 product in order to better compete with airlines like Japan, Cathay Pacific, and China Eastern.
Also announced in United’s first quarter earnings report is the conversion of 21 767-300ER aircraft from a three-class configuration to a two-class configuration. The aircraft will also be equipped with blended winglets, like the current two-class 767-300ERs are. With the 767 modifications, most of the 757 transatlantic routes will be switched to a 767, and the 757s will be placed in the domestic market. United is also close to a deal to acquire ten to twenty more narrow-body aircraft in the near future. This is a separate deal from the four 737-700s United is in the process of receiving from Copa. This year alone, United plans to remove 130 50-seat regional jets from its fleet and replace them with Embraer E175s.