Airbus Expects United To Place A380 Order


#1

Airbus Expects United To Place A380 Order

United Continental Holdings is contemplating an Airbus A380 order, and while a final deal will take some time, Airbus expects the U.S. airline to adopt the double-decker for its extensive Asian network.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer-Customer John Leahy, speaking with Aviation Week yesterday after a market forecast presentation in Washington, asserted that United President and CEO Jeffery Smisek has changed his previously held view that the widebody was inappropriate for U.S. operators and now saw possibilities for the A380 in the new United fleet.

However, the Airbus executive issued a caveat when pressed on a pending United deal, noting, “I’m not saying there is an order soon, but United understands that if it wants to have a major presence in Asia it needs the A380.”

Airbus considers Boeing 747 operators as likely A380 customers, and in North America that means United and Delta Air Lines are candidates. However, Delta is no longer a target, having told Airbus it wants to focus on smaller widebodies, says Leahy. “That leaves United as our target,” he added.

Rest of article at Aviation Week


#2

Interesting.

This, even with the MOU for the A350s that they signed up for? IIRC, the estimated time for delivery would be after the A350s go into service, would it not? The A350s were going to be the replacement for either their B744s or the first B772s that came off the line in the mid-90s. IF they’re thinking of the A380 to replace the B744, that would mean leaving them in service a lot longer than UAL wanted to.

Unless…

UAL were to replace the B777s with the A350s, and replace the B767s with the B787s that they also signed the MOU for, and replace the B744s with the A380.

BL.


#3

A press release announcing the A350 (along with 787) by United states

United expects to take delivery of the aircraft between 2016 and 2019; at the same time it will retire its international Boeing 747s and 767s. These 50 new aircraft will reduce the average seat count by about 19 percent compared to the aircraft they will replace, and by about 10 percent when averaged over the entire international fleet. With the Airbus A350 powered by the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, and the Boeing 787 powered by either the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 or the GE GEnx, United estimates it will reduce its fuel costs and carbon emissions from the 50 aircraft by about 33 percent. Additionally, the company expects average lifetime maintenance costs for the new aircraft to be approximately 40 percent lower per available seat mile than the aircraft that will be retired.

United will need the A380 if it is to remain competitive in the Asian market. The United 747’s hold 374 people in 3 classes. The A350 holds approximately 315 in 3 classes. In 2010, United averaged about 87% load factor on the Asian routes. Replacing the 747s with A350 would result in loss of passengers due to the lower seat availability so I can see the A380 being a good fit for United.


#4

I think the Airbus guy is totally misreading the situation. I’m sure he just had a meeting with Smisek and Smisek of course had nice things to say about the aircraft - it is a nice aircraft. However, it does not fit at all into United’s fleet plans.

United has no immediate interest in the A380 and does not need it to remain “competitive” in Asia.

United needs and wants smaller aircraft across the Pacific to shore up yields and reduce risk as well as open up additional opportunities that a smaller aircraft like the 787 provides. The feeling is that the 744 is already too big for many of the markets it serves. Additionally, with a joint venture and ATI with ANA, if United needs A380-type lift on a transpacific route (as long as it touches Japan) it can get it through the joint venture.


#5

Well I disagree because united has mostly Boeing aircraft. So it would be like a slap in the face for boeing and then they might be unfair to United. Further more, United has all there 777-200’s and 747-400’s and they have 787-8’s on the way. It would be a waste of money if they bought A380’s.


#6

While it’s true that United’s aircraft are mainly Boeing, they do have a sizable fleet of Airbus aircraft - about 20% of the fleet are A319’s or A320’s. Additionally, they have 25 A350’s on order plus 50 options.

The A380 would be a good fit for United on its routes to the Far East and Australia. United is replacing the 747’s with A350’s. In order to remain competitive, they are going to need a larger aircraft than the A350 on Far East/Australia routes.

Yes, I know carriers in the USA prefer to have more frequent flights using smaller aircraft. However, the is a point where increasing frequencies is impossible. This is due to slot allocations and nighttime curfews in many foreign airports. Having a larger aircraft allows the airlines to carry the same number of people in fewer flights.


#7

Let’s ask this, and use UAL’s KLAX-YSSY run as an example.

We know that they use B744s for that run (and even continuing it to YMML). What’s the current seat configuration and max number of passengers UAL can put into their 744s? Then, compare that to the max that an A350 can fit. Will the numbers match, or would it be too short that they’d have to make a second run to accommodate those that were missed?

I ask this because of YSSY having their curfew overnight, causing the Australia-bound runs to leave at night at LAX. They can’t just launch another aircraft on that run unless they blow the curfew.

BL.


#8

As I mentioned above,

United will need the A380 if it is to remain competitive in the Asian market. The United 747’s hold 374 people in 3 classes. The A350 holds approximately 315 in 3 classes. In 2010, United averaged about 87% load factor on the Asian routes. Replacing the 747s with A350 would result in loss of passengers due to the lower seat availability so I can see the A380 being a good fit for United.

I haven’t computed the load factors for UAL’s Australian routes but I have the feeling it’s in the high 80’s. Let’s take the 87% load factor for Asia and apply it to Australia.
747: 374 seats at 87%: 325
A315: 315 seats
Passengers unable to be accommodated: 10

I don’t know if it still holds true but it use to be that an airline would start adding flights on a route when the average load factor reached about 75%.


#9

I don’t know if it still holds true but it use to be that an airline would start adding flights on a route when the average load factor reached about 75%.

That no longer holds true, especially for long-haul where the number of additional passengers you’d have to attract to fill a second flight is much higher and the pool of passengers to draw from is much more fixed.

Instead, UA will be looking to keep load factors in the 90% range and simply fly fewer low-yield passengers.

The A380 is simply too much plane for pretty much any of UA’s routes - SFO-SYD is actually one of the few where it has the best chance of working, but you don’t order a plane because it would be nice to have on one route.

(SFO-SYD actually does much better financially than LAX-SYD because it has more feed and less competition)


#10

The A380 would do well on the following UA routes:
-California/Tokyo (NRT)
-California/Hong Kong
-California/Sydney
-JFK/Tokyo (NRT)
-California/China (between either SFO or LAX and PVG or PEK)

With 2 aircraft needed for these routes to have daily service, I can see United ordering 10 or 12 A380’s.

The original Braniff is an airline that ordered one aircraft, different from all other aircraft in its fleet, for one route: the 747 and DFW/HNL. They did pretty good with it.


#11

Currently served by a B772… wouldn’t the B788 or B789 (whichever they’re ordering) fit here?

-California/Hong Kong

Served by both a B744 and B772. Not sure on the seat ratio here.

-California/Sydney

Already mentioned, but puts it at a hard slot to fill, because of the overnight curfew at YSSY/YMML.

-JFK/Tokyo (NRT)
-California/China (between either SFO or LAX and PVG or PEK)

With 2 aircraft needed for these routes to have daily service, I can see United ordering 10 or 12 A380’s.

The original Braniff is an airline that ordered one aircraft, different from all other aircraft in its fleet, for one route: the 747 and DFW/HNL. They did pretty good with it.

So did AWE, when they bought their B742 for US West Coast to Tokyo service via HNL. It tanked… BADLY.

BL.


#12

United’s international 777’s seat, according to seatguru.com, 252 and 253 passengers.

United has ordered both the 787-8 and 787-9. The former, according to Wikipedia, seats 242 in 3 classes while the latter has 250-290 in three classes. I haven’t seen anything on how United is going to configure their 787’s.

Tokyo (NRT) is served by both the 747 and the 777 from California. SFO gets the 747 service (once daily) while LAX has twice daily 777’s.

AWE served Nagoya, not Tokyo, and they had 3, not 1, 747. They discontinued the Honolulu/Nagoya segment and sold it to Northwest.


#13

UA only has 1 LAX-NRT 777 flight - the other they sell on their code is operated by ANA.

LAX-NRT was a 747 as recently as a few years ago. Loads did not justify the use of the 747. There’s just so much competition on LAX-NRT that there’s not enough passengers to go around to fill bigger aircraft. It also means coach yields aren’t that good so carrying a lot of coach passengers isn’t all that profitable.

Also, note that since UA has a Joint Venture with ANA, that means if they want more capacity, they can upgauge the ANA flight instead and UA still gets a share of the revenue. (should note that ANA hasn’t ordered a VLA either though, so they’re currently flying their largest aircraft, the 777-300ER on these routes).

SFO-NRT is a route where the 747 also currently goes out pretty full routinely at decent yield, however, with the ANA joint venture and the possibility of more HND slots opening up, UA has options to increase capacity on SFO-Tokyo without having to order a VLA.

The only California-China route that is currently a 747 is SFO-PEK, and the only reason for this is because UA had excess 747’s and a shortage of 777’s and SFO-PEK was a route where it had the best chance of actually carrying some incremental decent-yielding passengers. The 777 is probably still the most appropriate aircraft for this route at this time. Despite all you hear, USA-China is still a developing market and passenger counts (and load factors most times of the year) are still pretty low - that’s why you hardly see any 747’s on these routes.


#14

You right. I didn’t notice the flight number when I was looking at the UAL timetable.

I was surprised to see that UAL actually operates only one flight a day from both cities to NRT.


#15

All UA NRT flights are timed to hit the UA connecting bank in NRT. At times a second flight from SFO and ORD has been tried but has never done well. Now that second flight (connecting to NH flights in NRT) can be operated by NH and the revenue is shared.

Also, flying ORD-NRT 2x required 4 777’s worth of aircraft time. That’s a lot of aircraft time and UA had better places to deploy it (for example, around when they pulled the second ORD-NRT they added IAD-DXB).


#16

That actually happened before DFW was open…So they were running that big orange 747 out of DAL. Must have been interesting to watch on the hot/heavy days from those shorter runways.


#17

I would love to have seen that, too. I know this service started prior to DFW. Other airlines also operated large jets (707, DC-8) out of DAL but none of the routes served were even close to the length of the HNL route.