United Airlines has disclosed that it has started the process of wanting to replace its fleet of 50 Boeing 767s (35 B763ERs + 15 B764ERS) as the carrier wants to retire these aging aircraft by 2020. It’s B763ERs are 22 years old in 2017 and their B764ERs are 16.
In the article link above, it states that there could be a possibility that UA might restructure its order of A350-1000s (A351s) to potentially include A330NEOs as the capital acquisition costs are lower for this aircraft versus the B787-9 (789).
From an objective view point, UA should not consider ordering the A330NEO under any circumstances because it unnecessarily adds another fleet type mix into their portfolio when it is totally not required. Unlike Delta who already operate a size able A330 fleet, switching over to the A330NEO is not an issue for them but for UA it is because they have no experience what so ever in operating this aircraft currently.
The most suitable B763ER/B764ER replacement for UA is an aircraft that they already operate i.e. the B789. UA’s B763s seat 214 pax where as their B764s seat 242. On the other hand, their B789s accommodate 252 pax + 3 tons more cargo + it can fly up to 15 hours nonstop without any payload restrictions unlike its B767s which are limited to maximum 12 hours (B763ER only). If pricing is an issue, they can get Boeing to give them a good deal for an incremental order of 50 B789s units by getting them to price match the competition if possible.
As far as the 35 A350-1000 order is concerned, if UA is having second thoughts on this aircraft type being in its fleet, the best alternative scenario is as follows:
· Exchange with Airbus 35 A351s for 70 A321NEOs
· Use the 70 A321NEOs to fully replace its 56 B757s on domestic and regional routes + on selected EWR-Ireland/secondary UK services
· The A321NEOs can also be configured in its P.S. configuration for EWR-LAX/SFO which the B757s currently operate on
· 70 A321NEOs will replace 56 B757s with the remaining 14 aircraft balance being used to facilitate growth or replace its 14 oldest A320s
· If more wide bodied aircraft are required, then it can easily place a top up order for more B77Ws and B789s as a high density configured B781 is perfectly suited to replace their high density configured 364 seater B772A.
· In this above suggested scenario, there is one less fleet type mix for UA to worry about as the wide bodies would revolve around the B777/B787 families only whereas the narrow body has both the B737 and A320 family line