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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

By James C. Kruggel
June 16, 2002

Simple fleets are a key to the financial success of low-fare airlines... In this in-depth article, Jim Kruggel contends that large, network airlines could have very simple fleets and still meet their own very different service goals.

Introduction: How to Stabilize Network-Airline Finances?

A rite of passage for many American high school and college students is William Strunk & E.B. White’s classic writing text, The Elements of Style. Readers of Strunk & White will remember their battle cry of good writing: "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" This lesson might apply to America’s network airlines, which have been swimming in red ink in since Sept. 11. It's a very old story in the United States airline industry. Periods of financial flourish, such as the late 1990’s, are followed by economic and/or war-related downturns like 2001. Enormous financial losses, service cuts, and layoffs ensue. Can that story be rewritten, or at least mitigated?

At least one network-airline CEO recognizes that radical change is needed. On April 12, American Airlines CEO Donald Carty told employees that "fundamental changes are needed in the way we operate" for American to survive. One step he proposed was "slashing the number of fleet types we operate from 14 to 7." This bold stroke-the radical simplification of their fleets-might offer a key to helping overcome their longstanding vulnerability to economic downturns. Airlines that are less vulnerable to downturns are of course better investments. They are also more stable employers and community partners, and less likely to cut corners on customer service.

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This article will use United Airlines, an airline which has suffered even worse financial reverses than American in the past two years, as an example to examine this question: Would a network carrier which simplified itself to a few aircraft types be a stronger, more financially viable entity which would still meet the service goals of a network carrier?

Our brief analysis suggests that it very well might. First, we’ll define our terms, themselves important for clarity in the widely-diverse airline industry. Second, we’ll describe how the restructuring of UA into a four-aircraft-type carrier might proceed, and what the resulting airline might look like. We will go much further than AA's Carty proposes and show that a network carrier might meet its service goals with far fewer than seven types.

Third, we’ll consider some possible hazards and downsides of such a fleet strategy, and consider the service trade-offs it could involve. Finally, we will offer and exposit our conclusion: that radical fleet simplification might be a key to helping America’s network carriers achieve the more consistent profitability, customer-service excellence, and employment stability that has long eluded them.

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1: The Players: Network Carriers, Network-Affiliate Regional Carriers, and Low-Fare Carriers.

Scheduled-service passenger airlines in the United States can be summed up in three categories, each of which has distinct service goals and fleet requirements. A network airline is a large airline such as United or American that offers ‘network’ coverage of the United States-that is, cities from coast to coast, ranging in size from large to small, on routes of varying density. These carriers also offer international services, typically augmented by code-sharing agreements with foreign carriers, carriers that for the customer’s purposes function as the same airline. The United States has six network carriers: American, United, Delta, Northwest, Continental, and US Airways.

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A network carrier must offer convenient and efficient connection between any two points on its system. This of course is achieved by picking a few airports as ‘hub’ operations, where many flights converge, passengers can change flights, and generally get to their destination the same day or even within the same part of the day-say, morning or afternoon.

Network airlines have regional affiliates, the second category. These airlines operate small aircraft of 80, 50, or less seats, to connect smaller cities with their route systems at hub-operation airports. Regional airlines are arms of the network carriers. In most cases, the regional carriers don’t operate independent operations of their own. Such airlines offer passengers in smaller cities a way to avoid driving two or three hours to the nearest medium-size city for air service. Also, regional carriers can offer smaller increments of increased capacity on larger routes.

Thus, United Airlines and its regional affiliates operating as United Express can offer passengers in cities of all sizes same-day or even same-morning connections within the United States. Greenville, South Carolina does not generate enough traffic for United to justify flying mainline aircraft, but it can support United Express flights. A passenger in Greenville can board a United Express regional jet operated by Atlantic Coast Airlines, change to a United plane in Chicago, then change to a United or United Express plane at Denver, and arrive in Billings, Montana on the same day. And he gets frequent-flyer miles good on United, on every segment of that trip.

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Photo © Jeff Merski - New England Aviation Photography

UA can also connect these same passengers to distant international cities by the next day. The same Greenville passenger can board a United Express flight to Washington-Dulles, and fly directly from there to many European airports, and even Asian airports on United's alliance partner All Nippon Airlines. The Greenville passenger can enjoy all of these services without having to drive a few hours to larger Atlanta or Charlotte, both of which can support mainline United service.

Convenience of timing has been, since the 1980’s, a key goal of the USA’s network carriers. Smaller aircraft and more frequent departures have proliferated. The airlines have striven, with remarkable success, to meet the desire of busy businessmen to make that late-morning meeting in New York and still get home back that afternoon for more work, or for dinner with their families. Flights to hubs during early morning and dinner rush hours, plus at least one midday departure, are thus de rigeur.

In some cases, a network carrier may offer eight or more frequencies daily on small aircraft between a spoke city, such as Greensboro, North Carolina, and a hub such as Atlanta, in order to give business travelers maximum convenience. A businessman who buys a ticket on a network airline in a major city can expect to find frequent nonstop flights to other major cities. A lawyer in Washington, DC, can choose any of 15 daily nonstop Delta Shuttle flights to fly to New York.

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Low-fare airlines are very different in organization and service-scope than network carriers. After 30 years of often painful trial and error, some common economic parameters have emerged to define what makes a successful low-fare carrier. Low-fare carriers typically operate one type of aircraft-in Southwest Airlines’ case, the Boeing 737. They often require that a city support a certain number of departures per day to justify the expense of operating a station at that city’s airport.

Thus, any market that cannot support 10 daily departures on 118-to-138 seat Boeing 737’s, cannot hope to be served by Southwest. The airport's host city doesn't necessarily have to be big-small Manchester, NH draws heavily from nearby Boston to feed its very successful Southwest station. But any market must support at least this minimum seat capacity in order to justify Southwest service.

Low-fare airlines cannot concern themselves with the network carrier’s goal of thorough coverage of most or all of the United States. It is more expensive to fly the multiple aircraft types used today to serve cities of all sizes, and fine-tune those departures to increments of 20 or 25 seats. Passengers in smaller cities typically have to drive to larger cities 1-3 hours away to fly these airlines. The passenger in small North Platte, Nebraska, must drive several hours to larger Omaha to catch a $39 flight on Southwest. He can buy a much more expensive ticket on a United Express turboprop that departs directly from North Platte, and connect to a wide range of destinations at United’s Denver hub operation.

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Low-fare airlines’ aircraft must spend more hours per day in the air on average than those of network carriers, in order to earn more money and thus make lower fares possible. So they typically avoid convenient but congested airports that will throw off their aircraft utilization. For instance, Southwest pulled out of delay-ridden San Francisco International in 2000, in order to preserve its fast turnarounds and high aircraft utilization. Bay area travelers must use San Jose or Oakland airports if they wish to fly Southwest. Los Angeles area travelers must drive to Long Beach or Ontario if they want to enjoy the low fares of JetBlue.

Low-fare airlines also cannot undertake extremely expensive international, transoceanic operations. These services require dealing with extremely high-cost European or Asian airports; offering three classes of service including sleeper-seat first class which allow high-powered executive passengers to sleep the night flight on their back; and finally, the cost of dinner-size meals once, twice, or even three times on an overseas flight full of 200 to 400 passengers.

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Low-fare airlines may demand more work from their employees for a similar amount of pay as they might receive at a network carrier. They also may ask-like Southwest-that their employees be skilled at multiple functions in order to boost reliability and those fast turnarounds, as well as reduce the complexity and cost of personnel hierarchy.

Finally, low-fare airlines may or may not have ‘interline’ agreements with other airlines, to honor their tickets if a flight is canceled. Southwest does not interline with other airlines, American Trans Air does. So a passenger on Southwest does not have the option of being transferred to another airline in case Southwest does not have another flight to get him home the same day.

2: United Airlines: Let the Simplification Begin!

Perhaps no US airline’s recent financial, labor, and legal woes have been as widely discussed or lamented as those of United Airlines. From exceptionally bad labor strife, a $250 million failed attempt at supermerger with US Airways, an especially congested main hub airport (Chicago O’Hare), inept management under former CEO James Goodwin, and finally the ignominy of seeing its planes hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center and Pennsylvania, the world’s second-largest airline has had a bad time of it. The airline lost $2.1 billion in 2001.

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United, like other network carriers, has a very complex fleet: Boeing 737-500, 737-300, 757-200, 767-200, 767-300, 777-200, 747-400, and Airbus A319 and A320. Ten aircraft types ranging from about 100 seats to about 400. This fleet offers United considerable precision in matching capacity to standard-fare demand.

Thus, UA can choose from roughly 100-, 125-, 150-, 186-, 210-, 240-, 300-, and 400-seat aircraft to meet demand with varying numbers of frequencies, on most routes. In addition, United Express carriers offer increments ranging from 80 seats down to 19. Since the hub-and-spoke system of serving network systems became dominant in the 1980’s, operating multiple aircraft types in sizes ranging from 19 to 300 or even 400 seats has been standard practice for network air carriers.

Airline schedule planners can use these complex fleets to practice very precise "yield management"-that is, match capacity precisely to the demand at a fare level that covers the cost of operating the service plus a profit. United’s accountants may find that Albany, New York, for instance, can support about 425-450 seats a day to UA’s Chicago-O’Hare hub, at fares that justify the expense of the service. They have aircraft of various sizes at their disposal, to best serve that traffic in say, three to six daily departures.

But the high costs of operating such complex fleets surely contribute to United and the other network carriers’ high operating costs. The truly meaningful measure of what it costs to provide air travel-the cost to fly one seat one mile (CSM)-is substantially higher at the network carriers than at the low-fare carriers. Network carriers have CSM’s that range from 10 to 14 cents; Low-fare carriers typically have CSM’s under 7.5 cents. Thus, the network carriers are much more vulnerable to sudden drops in traffic, as was shown clearly after Sept. 11.

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But what if the fleets weren’t so complex? What if United simplified its fleet to four aircraft types: Airbus A319 (125 seats); Boeing 767-300 (235 seats); Boeing 777-200 (300 seats); and 747-400 (400 seats)?

This process of fleet rationalization and simplification would of course take several years, and it would require substantial financial returns to justify its cost. Retiring aircraft has its costs as well. But once the process was completed, United would only have to train mechanics and other employees on four aircraft types, and have parts costs for only those types. Catering, servicing, and ground equipment could be simplified and bought in larger quantities at negotiated lower per-item cost.

Employees might be more easily cross-trained, and offer a given airport-station more flexibility to accomplish the job, if there were only a few aircraft types with which to be familiar. They might thus have an even greater sense of importance to the company, as they would be entrusted with greater responsibility, and have to exercise greater personal judgment in more situations.

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Photo © George W. Hamlin

Yield management and regional carriers would become more important than ever once the airline itself no longer has 25-seat increments in aircraft size to work with. If the airline's accountants found that demand on ALB-ORD was increasing, the least capacity the airline could add would be whatever regional aircraft is suitable for the route-in this case, probably the CRJ-200. Yield management would still ensure that profit was maximized in the situation of less-precise capacity increases. Albany would not get additional capacity until 50 additional seats could yield profit.

To be sure, there would be routes on which the loss of 25-ish-seat increments in aircraft size would cost an airline flexibility. United would no longer have the 757 for many transcontinental routes in the scenario proposed here. The A319 and 767-300 would have to suffice. These are the kind of questions network carriers must face if they are to make meaningful reductions in operating costs.

Such precise increments of mainline aircraft capacity might have to be sacrificed for network carriers to survive in a marketplace full of high-quality, well-managed, low-fare carriers with much lower cost structures. These well-managed low-fare carriers are almost certainly not going away, and they will continue to help define what kind of cost structure their network competitors can afford.

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Within less than a decade, it would be reasonable to assume that a simplified fleet with subsequent simplified maintenance needs, simplified ground operations, and greater employee cross-training would all result in lower costs per seat-mile. The USA's network carriers now operate effectively as a Cartel to protect themselves as best possible from consumer and community resistance to their high fares. Lower CSM's alone could offer the opportunity to put themselves on much more solid economic footing, and reduce their need for conusumer-unfriendly high fares. Even a reduction of two or three cents in CSM could be the difference between dependable profitability and the existing financial roller-coaster.

3. Trade-offs, Benefits, and Possible Hazards of Fleet Simplification

What trade-offs or possible hazards would a network carrier like United face in simplifying its fleet? Capacity management would actually be affected very little, as the airline's regional affiliates would be relied upon more heavily to match capacity to demand. The already-common practice of seeing regional-affiliate aircraft, to which passengers are accustomed, on even large routes, would become even more common. Thus, network carriers would not lose two key network service goals-precise matching of capacity to demand, and service to cities of all sizes-by radically simplifying their fleets.

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Airline accountants would have to cross-examine the processes of aircraft retirement costs, reduced operational costs, and potential growth routes, to determine if such a move would affect the overall fleet size of the network carrier. Any major change in an airline's fleet can affect employee distribution between mainline and regional flying, and thus raise issues of pilot union scope-clauses. So the network carriers would need to work closely with employee groups to prevent fleet simplification from turning into a labor-relations debacle.

Decisions by major carriers to retire particular aircraft types en-masse would probably roil both the new-aircraft and used-aircraft markets. If, for example, United, American, and Delta all decided that the Boeing 757 no longer fit into their fleet plans, but decided to standardize their narrowbody operations around the 737-800 or 737-700, that could affect the aftermarket value of 757's. Similarly, if Continental decides that the 757 is one of a handful of aircraft types it will retain, it might suddenly find that used 757s were cheaper to come by, and Boeing might find that the distribution of new-aircraft sales changes substantially. Thus, the costs of retiring fleet types could vary widely depending upon how many network carriers engaged in fleet simplification.

Fleet simplification would not bring network carriers' CSM's down as low as the low-fare airlines' CSM's in any event. Network carriers must serve high-cost international routes, and offer regional-jet service, which has proven at least as expensive as narrowbody service per seat-mile, in order to maintain small-city reach and capacity flexibility.

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Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

...But their CSM's would come closer to those of low-fare carriers. And thus the network carriers' fares could drop some. Business travelers would be less likely to avoid them in droves as happened in 2001, when $500-$2500 domestic coach fares were no longer a viable option for many American corporations. They could amass bigger cash reserves-like Southwest which, on Sept. 11, had enough cash to operate for over 300 days. Most of the network carriers had enough cash to operate for less than 70 days. The profitability bar could be lowered, and the network carriers would find themselves considerably less vulnerable to recession and war.

The network carriers have already engaged in some fleet simplification after Sept. 11; US Airways, for example, is retiring all 737-200, MD-80, and F100 aircraft. The service life of the venerable 727 with US network carriers is now projected to end by 2003.

But the United States network airlines must strike much more boldly if they wish to make a meaningful decrease in their costs per seat-mile, and remain network carriers. Each of them must standardize around no more than four fleet types, even avoiding variations within aircraft families if possible. In United's case, keep the better-CSM 767-300, retire 767-200's. Keep just the A319 or A320, either of which offers the same "7-inch wider" cabin, but do not keep both of these planes. All UA 737s should be retired. Finally, new aircraft types should be avoided, unless they are slated to replace an existing fleet type.

Conclusion: Simpler Fleets, Possible Better Finances.

United and the other USA network carriers would likely lose very little, if any, capacity flexibility by radically simplifying their fleets. Regional affiliates offer far more potential than their parent network carriers currently tap to absorb the function of capacity flexibility. There appear to be no capacity and market-size reasons for these airlines not to simplify their fleets down to four aircraft types.

Airline accountants would need to do careful studies on the costs of retiring aircraft to minimize the risk of fleet simplification creating, or falling victim to, a roiled used-aircraft market. Such studies are well beyond the parameters of this article, and would need to be undertaken by those with expertise in aircraft finances. But the potential massive financial benefits of operating simple fleets-demonstrated beyond question by low-fare carriers like Southwest-suggests that the benefits probably far outweigh the risks.

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Fleet simplification would spawn because it would require a complete rethinking of airline management-labor relations. Management would have to consult closely with employee groups to determine how to minimize the fleet-distribution effects of flying. Both parties would also have to work closely on adjusting seniority rules to fit a smaller pool of potential aircraft. Management would need to be willing to train employees more extensively on more tasks in order to entrust them with more responsibility in the operation of the airline. Employee groups, by the same token, would need to accept that their jobs would require more task flexibility and see that this makes them more, not less, valuable to the airline.

Consumers would benefit from fleet simplification. Airlines could still offer them at least the same seat capacity on most routes, and probably more once the profit bar was lowered. Fares could drop some, and smaller cities would pay a lesser airfare penalty than they do today.

Fleet simplification obviously does not address of itself other factors-particularly high labor costs stemming from an essentially pre-deregulation labor-management relationship at the network carriers. But these are issues for a different article. Fleet simplification offers a potentially promising place for network carriers to start to transform themselves into economically viable long-term providers of air service.

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Photo © Leigh Miller

Written by
James C. Kruggel

Jim Kruggel is a Ph.D. student of theology at the Catholic University of America, and hopes to become a university professor. He is also a longtime aviation enthusiast who took undergraduate studies in public administration with the goal of entering airport management, and an artist specializing in pencil and pen-and-ink drawings. Jim lives in Washington, DC.

25 User Comments:
Username: EricT67Austin [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-17 17:52:16 and read 32768 times.

The true fly in the ointment is the labor agreements that network airlines are operating under. They are based on an aviation reality of 30 - 50 years ago. For the network carriers to have the flexibility that they need to implement the changes described by the author (added responsibilities, flexibility in worker assignment, adjusting the mainline operations vs. regional operations) the current labor agreements will need to be radically changed.

Call me jaded or realistic, but I just can't see labor allowing radical changes to be made to the current agreements.

Username: Cba [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 00:02:34 and read 32768 times.

About the fleet you propose UAL operates, do you know anything about commonality?

"United would no longer have the 757 for many transcontinental routes in the scenario proposed here. The A319 and 767-300 would have to suffice.

The 757, 762, and 763 all have the same rating. Also, UA also has the A320, which has commonality with the A319. Also, it is a known fact that all major airlines in the US today are simplifying their fleet. Today, United actually only operates 5 fleet types (excluding United Express).

737 (732, 735, 733)
A320 (319, 320)
757/767 (752, 762, 763)
777 (772)

American has 5 types:
757/767 (752, 762, 763)

Delta has 5
737 (732, 733, 738)
757/767 (752, 762, 763, 764)

Northwest has 6

Continental has 4 (to be 3 shortly when MD-80 is phased out)
737 (733, 735, 73G, 738, 739)
757/767 (752, 753, 762, 764)

Username: DCA-ROCguy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 02:47:40 and read 32768 times.

The 757, 762, and 763 all have the same rating. Also, UA also has the A320, which has commonality with the A319. Also, it is a known fact that all major airlines in the US today are simplifying their fleet. Today, United actually only operates 5 fleet types (excluding United Express).

Type rating has to do with pilot training, but it does not have to do with a large portion of maintenance cost. That's the cost I had in mind. Obviously, common type rating is a help. But many of the planes are different versions, which with older types (like Northwest's three different types of DC-9's, manufactured over a long period of time) have higher maintenance cost.

For maintenance purposes, 757/ 767 are different aircraft, as to some (much lesser) extent are different generations of the 737.UA's 737's are of three different generations.

Yes, the major airlines are all simplifying their fleets, but they're not going far enough. I pushed the argument beyond the extent to which they're simplifying, to examine what further benefits might be found.


Username: Ckfred [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 02:51:59 and read 32768 times.

What you're suggesting actually goes against what most majors are doing. American, Continental, and Delta are all going towards the all-Boeing fleet. US Airways is working towards an all-Airbus fleet. If United ditched the Boeings or the Airbuses, that would make sense

American has retired its DC-10s and 727s. The MD-11s have been sold to FedEx. The Fokkkers will be retired by 2010, to be replaced with 737-600s. The MD-80s will eventually replaced with 737-700s. I would assume that the A300s will be replaced with 767-400s.

In your United proposal, United has no aircraft between 125 and 325 seats. There are plenty of flights that need more than 125 seats, but fewer than 325. United either winds up with a lot of Airbus flights or a few 767-300 flights.

With American operating a substantial number of 737s, their training costs and maintenance costs will decrease. But their labor costs will also decrease. With 400 737s, the number of reserve pilots will be less than the current number of reserves flying the F100, MD-80, and 737-800.

Right now, any airline that flies both the 757 and the 767 have pilots trained to fly both types. For American, that means a pilot can fly 757-200, 757-200ER (used for Hawaii routes), 767-200, 767-200ER, and 767-300ER. So suggesting that an airline fly only 757s or 767s is kind of silly.

Username: DCA-ROCguy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 06:16:18 and read 32768 times.

In your United proposal, United has no aircraft between 125 and 325 seats. There are plenty of flights that need more than 125 seats, but fewer than 325. United either winds up with a lot of Airbus flights or a few 767-300 flights.

Huh? I proposed, as a hypothetical example, running UA with aircraft with 125 (A319), 235 (763), 325 (772), and 400 (744)seats. Last I knew the 763 doesn't seat 325 people, unless UA went to a very, very, high density all-leisure configuration. ;)

Right now, any airline that flies both the 757 and the 767 have pilots trained to fly both types. For American, that means a pilot can fly 757-200, 757-200ER (used for Hawaii routes), 767-200, 767-200ER, and 767-300ER. So suggesting that an airline fly only 757s or 767s is kind of silly.

Again, pilot type rating is only one issue. Parts and maintenance are major parts of fleet expense. Maybe to the pilot the 757 and 767 are the same a/c for type purposes, but for the parts supplier or mechanic they sure aren't. One can't ignore this element in examining fleet costs.

The article examines some radical possiblities, such as asking airlines to choose 757 or 767, as a way of looking how very broad change can be achieved. For all any of us know, a network airline shrunk to 4 types could have both; I simply picked on them because I went by about 100-seat increments.


Username: Wilax [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 08:08:12 and read 32768 times.

I very much agree with the above article except on one point. The idea of UA only keeping the A320 or A319 does not make sense to me. Both of these aircraft were constructed and designed using almost identical technology over the same time frame. 319's and 320's (also 321's and 318's) are essentially the same aircraft with different fuselage lengths, assuming IAE engines on all aircraft. Of course the engines have different thrust ratings, the wings have slight differences, and there are various miscellaneous semi-redundancies, but from a maintainance or crew standpoint, it could not be much simpler. Airbus seems to have been ahead of the curve on the commonality issue in comparison with Boeing. Although some of the Seattle aircraft share the same type ratings and even cockpits, a 757, 767, and 777 could never be considered the same plane. Airbus, however, basically only builds 2 types of aircraft in many sizes, and I see no argument against that. However, for some reason, Southwest does not operate 736's, 738's or 739's to go with the 73G's; go figure.

Username: DeltAirlines [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 15:46:36 and read 32768 times.

What I see for the network carriers will be a rationalized fleet (these airlines are still holding several different airlines' fleets from the merger-happy 80s), however it will never be something akin to a Southwest fleet of all 737s. There are several different reasons for this. Let's take Boston-Chicago, which is served by American and United (with a few ATA) on mostly A319, A320, 738, 757 and MD-82. If UA did go to A319, 763... and AA went to a 738, 757, 763, 777, there would be a lack of/overflow of seats in the market, depending on the equipment used. There is a very good reason that United has A320 and 757s running the majority of this route, and same with American and the MD-80, as both planes fit perfectly. There won't be extra seats available that would be empty, and there wouldn't be a lack of seats. The economics warrent that plane be used.

Jeff (thanks for putting my photo and the MHT plug in)

Username: Tango-Bravo [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-18 20:09:32 and read 32768 times.

Excellent article... My single most divergent point of view from the author's is with his statement "America's network airlines, which have been swimming in red ink since Sept. 11." Actually, they were swimming in red ink long before 9/11, with record losses being forecast as early as June, 2001 -- in spite of record or near-record load factors and relatively low to moderate fuel prices.

As for fleet simplification, I would maintain that UA could, for example, operate both A319 and A320 as "one type" in all respects except for the incremental diffrerence in seating and cargo hold capacities. Both, for example, have common type ratings for pilots, transcon range at maximum payload, require the same number of flight attendants, and have virtual 100% commonality in airframes, powerplants and systems.

On the other hand, there is no way that all 737s can be considered as one type as some have suggested; there are vast differences between the -100/200, -300/400/500 and -600/-700/-800/-900 generations of the "Baby Boeing." Nor do the 757/767 have much in common aside from pilot ratings. And the MD80 and MD90 are also quite different from each other on account of their engine types.

When it comes to simplify, simplify, simplify... the network carriers need to consider much more than their fleets. Their marketing and pricing departments have become self-serving tails that are allowed to wag the dog with their proliferation of hopelessly convoluted schemes that create untold added costs, to say nothing of the umbrage their gimmicks based on bait-and-switch half-truth tactics cause among both customers and employees.

I fully agree with the business executive of the highest level elite status with a network airline who summed up his thoughts toward the same airline's marketing and pricing tactics, "...is antithetical to everything we do in a normal business environment." Perhaps that is why the U.S. network airlines are almost universally regarded by Wall Street and the business media as the most poorly managed U.S. industry.

Username: Doug_or [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-19 06:08:19 and read 32768 times.

one point reagrading simplification and the usage of the southwest model is the diffrent time restraints these airlines operate under. The hub and spoke system by nature requires size flexibility. southwest can keep adding 737 flights between cities all it wants. but if united needs to add capacity to a city, extra flights won't neccesarily work, becuase they need to come in during certain times (right before the potential connecting flights leave).thats why you see the majors mess around much more with a/c type on a particular route than the number of flights over it.

Username: Kyril [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-19 06:37:38 and read 32768 times.

How it goes in Europe...
Hi all...
I had a precision about fleets...
the Airbus narrowbody fleet, shares same type rating for pilots and cabin crews, AND share exactly same maintenance. Friends of me work at Air France Maintenance, AF fleet scheduling, and expenses. They assured me than having an A319 and an A321 instead of 2 A319 cost EXACTLY the same for maintenance. This family of planes shares same spare part, exactly same technology, doors, tankers, etc. Like having the same plane.
Now about European Airlines.
Here the situation is a little different but looks similar.
Fleet simplification just started a little earlier.
For example for domestic flights in France, the major domestic carrier was Air Inter, now merged in Air France, and the fleet change is more a rationalization.
Air France has changed to an all Airbus fleet (A319, A320, A321 and soon A318) on the shuttle system, and is continuing to sell or retire all 737's. AF will maybe soon introduce back A330-200's on some domestic routes due to traffic congestion, but the decision is still pending.
On long haul routes the policy is different, AF actally flyies Boeing 767-300's, 747-200-300's, 747-400's and 777-200', and Airbus A330-200's and A340-300's.
The finality of the fleet modification on long haul is to move all 747's on "charter like" routes like caribeans, and overseas territorys including -400's and retire all 763's. For other long haul flights they will continue to operate A332's A343's and B772's and introduce very soon 773's to replace 747-400.
The next step is the introduction of the A380 wich AF will be one of the first owners, on routes overcrowded like CDG-JFK, CDG-ATL CDG-NRT etc...
The goal is finally to have 4 family of common type rating, common maintenance rating planes.
1) The short haul: all airbus fleet A318, A319, A320, A321 Maybe the A330
2) The long haul:
Family 1 A332, A343.
Family 2 A380 (with a huge commonality with other Airbus')
Family 3 B772, B773.

A temporary step will be the 747-400 on "COI" (Indian Ocean and Carribean, a major "charter like destination" from europe)
And the 747-200F will continue as AF is also servicing other companyes with maintenance even if they don't own some types of aircrafts.

The fact there will be both the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A340 in the long haul fleet might be strange, but AF will continue having both for seats convienience. This considering the rationality of the rest of the fleet they can afford a little "extra" :-)
Hope this interrested some of you !
See you soon at FL350!

Username: MSY-MSP [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-19 22:05:57 and read 32768 times.

Very interesting article. I must say I agree with the idea of fleet rationalization on the level suggested. However, i think that a couple of interesting hick-ups may occur in the plan.

First of all is the aforementioned labour issues. I am not sure the pilots/FA for the phased out aircraft are going to go along with this. Also the cost of retraining/recertifying many of these pilots to change aircraft could end up being cost prohibitive.

Second, I recently heard this from a UAL pilot on a recent trip of mine. The reason UA went with the A319/320 was to get more slots at CDG from the French government. If this is true, how can a network carrier truly rationalize its fleet if governments/airport authorities place conditions on the carrier that force it to either abandon a route or accept a new fleet type?

Third, I agree with others that the A320 family is really one aircraft. If the same mechanics can use the same parts, and the same pilots can fly the aircraft, then I think it counts as one fleet type. If this does hold true it may answer my forth problem with the proposed fleet rationalization.

Fourth, Airports with aircraft performance/size restrictions. I am going to use two example airports. First is Gunnison CO. This is a small airport that feeds into a ski/resort area of Colorado. During the ski season the airport serves a large number of passengers. Airlines during this time would like to increase capacity to the airport. Using the example above a network carrier who served the airport with an A319 w/ 120 seats would either have to add a second flight thereby increasing costs (two flights invariably cost more than one to operate) or use a larger aircraft. However GUC, cannot handle a 767. The largest aircraft that it can handle is a 757 with 175-200 seats. I was on one of these 757 flights once, and to take off and clear the mountains at the end of the runway it required a military take off. Performance characteristics of the aircraft may limit the rationalization. My second example is now moot, but is worth looking at. DCA prior to 9/11 used to allow 757's to operate out, and no larger aircraft. Airlines could always fill a 100 -125 seat aircraft, but there are only so many slots available so adding additional flights is not an option. An airline needed the larger aircraft to handle the larger loads. This might also come at the expense of fleet rationalization.

These are just my thoughts on the issue.


Username: Airworthy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-20 20:42:32 and read 32768 times.

I need to make some corrections.

Fleet types:

United (5)
737 CLASSIC: 733, 735
A32X: 319, 320
757/767: 752, 762, 763
777: 772
744: 744

Continental (5)
737 CLASSIC: 733, 735
737NG: 73G, 738, 739
MD-80: M80
757/767: 752, 753, 762, 763, 764
777: 772

NW (6)
DC-9: D9S
A32X: 319, 320
757: 752, 753
747: 742
744: 744
DC-10: D10

AA (6)
F100: F100
A300: A36
MD-80: M80
737 NG: 738
757/767: 752, 762, 763
777: 772

DL (7)
737-200: 732
737 CLASSIC: 733
MD-80: M88
737 NG: 738
757/767: 752, 762, 763, 764
MD-11: M11
777: 772

I don't know why you chose UA, Jim. Fact is, UA has one of the most simplified fleets of the majors. Look at the roles of their aircraft:

737 CLASSICs (one generation): short hauls only
A32X: some short haul, mostly medium haul, midcons, and transcons, +overwater ops to Caribbean and Central America
757: same as A32X, +ETOPS capability to Hawaii
762: premium transcon services
763 domestic: former DC-10 flying
763: "long thin" (for UA not so long, but relatively thin) international routes
772 domestic: former DC-10 flying
772: trunk routes, intl and domestic
744: intl trunk routes, interhub flying

The only thing that will be in need of rationalizing are the 737 CLASSICS and 762... which will probably be replaced by more A32X and 763.

For an airline in real need of simplification, look at Delta's hodge-podge fleet. However, take note that -even though their fleet is convoluted- they are fiscally sound. So simplification isn't everything.

Username: DCA-ROCguy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-21 04:05:57 and read 32768 times.

I don't know why you chose UA, Jim. Fact is, UA has one of the most simplified fleets of the majors. Look at the roles of their aircraft:

All of the majors, according to the argument I lay out, have fleets too complex if they have more than four types. UA has at least 6 by your counting method, 9 by mine if we drop 732. If indeed as others have indicated, the A319 and A320 are so similar as to have negligible maintenance difference, there's a small amount of flexibility for UA without maintenance penalty. But there's still the 752 and 762 that could be eliminated.

For an airline in real need of simplification, look at Delta's hodge-podge fleet. However, take note that -even though their fleet is convoluted- they are fiscally sound. So simplification isn't everything.

Simplification definitely isn't everything--as I noted, labor cost structure is an enormous problem as well. However, it seems to me worthwhile to examine the benefits of a radical simplification to 4 a/c types.

It seems to me that *none* of the Cartel carriers--including Delta--are fiscally sound, if they were reduced to near death by one terrorist attack. And as I argued in the article, an industry that depends upon the economic roller coaster--gouge in the good times, swim in red ink in the bad--is *not* fiscally sound.

The success of low-fare carriers, notably Southwest, and its 300+ day cash cushion, demonstrate conclusively that most US available revenue miles--domestic mainline a/c traffic--does *not* have to be offered under the current untenable long-term economic structure of the Cartel carriers. Simplification may be applied to them to a much greater extent, if I am correct--and that could help move them closer to the kind of financial footing Southwest enjoys.

Consumers should not be at the mercy of the economy, in order to get reasonable fares, when it is clear that changes in airline structure could even out fares in the consumer's favor. And investors should not have to expect huge losses, when the industry could be changed to substantially reduce the loss risk.

But you're right that Delta's fleet is still a hodgepodge.


Username: Airworthy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-21 05:26:48 and read 32768 times.

I don't think eliminating the 757 would be a good move. It makes sense for the sake of simplification, but the 757s are perhaps the major's best and most consistently performing asset: the thing is a smooth operator in that it can do equally well any number of routes, even ETOPS routes, with full pax and cargo load and no penalty, and accomplish this with the lowest seat costs available. Yes, if they're relatively full, the CASM of a UA 757 on SFO-LAX are less than those of a UA 737 on an equivalent route. They are that efficient.

I would argue that if you wanted to simplify UA into 4 types -not counting the 757/767 as one as you correctly assess, because everything except the flight deck is different- I would suggest UA simplify to A32X, 757, 763/4, and 777/777LR/777-300ER aircraft. ETOPS will inevitably be extended as 777s continue to pave Pacific paths in addition to EWR-HKG and LAX-AKL, which will allow the 777-300ER to displace 747-400s on high-demand routes like SFO-NRT/HKG/etc.

One more thing: Delta has yet another fleet type -- the MD-80!!! Goodness gracious!

Username: Jwenting [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-21 09:37:56 and read 32768 times.

Elimination of the 757 does make sense. It offers about the same seating capacity and maintenance and fuel costs as the 767-300 (in a mainline config, in a charter config the 767-300 has more capacity) while offering shorter range.
In this scenario UAL could use the 767-300 on both high capacity national routes as well as low capacity intercontinental routes (much like Delta does today). A 757-200 would have to make a fuelstop somewhere or be severely weight limited on the intercontinental option.
Therefore the 767-300 is the most logical choice to be retained when reducing fleet complexity (as European airlines have noticed for quite some time, most don't operate 757s if they have an intercontinental network (KLM, AF, LH) or are getting rid of them (BA)).
In Europe the 757 is mainly used by charter carriers on high capacity inter-European routes (with the oddball being Transavia that uses it on their one medium capacity long-distance route to Kathmandu, and even they are planning to replace the aircraft with 737s in a bid to simplify their fleet on only 2 types, the 737-700 and -800 (which are effectively one type, as maintenance and crew ratings are the same)).

Also, I consider the types presented in this example to be mainly an example. Maybe on more complete analysis different types would emerge as the most suitable.
Maybe the A319 is too small and the 737-800 or A320 would be more suitable for UALs needs. Fact remains that drastic fleet simplification brings with it substantial reduction of maintenance and crew training cost (after an initial period of investment of course), and that was the true intention of the story.

Username: Ckfred [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-21 23:45:52 and read 32768 times.

I meant to type 235, but it came out 325.

But still, all Boeing aircraft have similarities. A Saturn SL1 is quite different from a Buick Park Avenue, but there are similarities for both the driver and the mechanic, because they are both GM. You are right that the 757 and 767 are, in ways, very different airplanes. But then, the cockpits are virtualy identical. Further, there are a lot of parts that will work in both airplanes

The reason that American flies both 737s, 757s and 767s are:

1. The 737s and 757s are well suited for short, medium and long-haul flights. The 767 is better suited for medium to long-haul.

2. Although a 757 has only 42 more seats than a 737-800, it can carry a lot more cargo. That's why American flies the 737-800 on BDL-LAX, but not LAX to the New York airports. There is more cargo going between LAX and New York. The 757s are also used on flights to ski resorts like Jackson Hole and Eagle County (EGE), because they can carry the extra baggage that skiers bring.

3. Although the 757 has more seats (176) than the 767-200 (162), the 767-200 is capable of producing more revenue. The 757 has only 22 First Class seats. The 767-200 has 40 to 44 Business and First Class seats. This is why the 767s fly ORD to LAX or SFO, but they don't fly ORD to Las Vegas or Phoenix. The LAX and SFO flights have more expense-account passengers, while LAS and PHX have more vacationers flying on a discounted-coach tickets.

What I don't understand is why you suggest United having A-319s, while the rest of the fleet is Boeing. A friend of mine is a commercial pilot. He has told me that the A-300 is very different in flying, when compared to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The A-320 and its derivatives are even more automated than the A-300 or anything from Boeing. It seems to me that it would be better to keep the 737-300s or 737-500s, simply because the thought process in flying Boeing aircraft is similar across the product line.

Username: Turbulence [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-22 13:43:32 and read 32768 times.

Hi all.
I'd like to add some comments.

The first reason that lead me to write my notes is that James Kruegel describes ten "types", where I am absolutely unable to count more that NINE MODELS, which from my limited knowledge count for six pilots ratings:
772 and

and seven types, from both mechanical and crew trainig point of view (huge powerplants and fuselage differences beween 757 and 767s).

The second reason is the last post, CkFred's one, about the convenience of keeping the 32Xs or not.
I see it from the opposite point of view. Now they fly 319s and 320s, along with 733s and 735s. These are three types. If they go further on Boeing, next model they will get is 736 and/or 73G for sizes, or 738/739 if they wish/need anything bigger, and they'll have four types.

BUT: what happens if they keep the 32x family and get rid of the 73Xs, whichever they are?
The 318s substitute the 735s, they still have the 319s and 320s, and whenever something bigger is needed, 321s come to complete the family.
The comments about "how automated" the 32Xs are, and the "flight thought" difference is, for me (and from a pilot's point of view), useless.
Pilots learn how to fly different types, and the ones who fly 757s do not fly 32Xs, but do not fly 737s, either.
In the case it is needed or they wish, they need four qualifications (757s, 737 classics, 737 modern and 737 NGs), while otherwise they need only two: 757s and the whole 32x family, from 318 to 321. With the advantage that the commonality on the narrowbodied Airbusses is 98%, in all mechanical maintenace, pilot rating and crew training, while the only commonality between 737s of different generations is the fuselage.
That's why I consider that the best choice for short to medium and even medium-long range aircraft family are the 32Xs.

OK: At this point someone can say that the same commonality logic can be applied to the 737NGs. And it will be absolutely right. But right now United (the subject of the article) are not having any NG, while they operate already two versions of 32X.

Finally, I'll not discuss anything about the 752 because it must have something "magic". Actually it is something different, I love it and when once I had the surprise of flinding one of them instead of the usual 320 or 727 between BCN and ATH I was extremely happy.

The example about how good the 757 must be is IBERIA. They are becoming all-Airbus. They gave back Air Europa's leased 733s and 734s, got rid of the venerable 727s and DC9s, and are slowly selling all the MD8Xs. These 5 types will soon become 1: 319s, 320s and 321s, maybe along with a few 318s in a not too far future.
They substituted D10s and 762s for 342s, got first 343s and will get 332s in subtitution of the classic 742s and the Air Atlanta 743s leased now, and will get even some 346s. This one type 330/340 fleet, with simple differences course between 330s and 340s will substitute D10s, 762s, 742s and 743s, again one type isntead of 4.

But, in spite if it all, they still have orders of 752s.

Hope I contributed to "simplify" any fleet.

Best turbulences

Username: DCA-ROCguy [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-22 22:52:25 and read 32768 times.

What I don't understand is why you suggest United having A-319s, while the rest of the fleet is Boeing. A friend of mine is a commercial pilot. He has told me that the A-300 is very different in flying, when compared to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The A-320 and its derivatives are even more automated than the A-300 or anything from Boeing. It seems to me that it would be better to keep the 737-300s or 737-500s, simply because the thought process in flying Boeing aircraft is similar across the product line.

I suggested the A319 because UA seems to have clearly committed to Airbus for its 125-150 seat aircraft. Had Boeing had the transcon-range, 150-seat 738 available in 1992 to replace the 722, UA may well have stayed with Boeing for that size category. But UA has chosen Airbus for that category, so I simply worked with what UA has.

It may well be that the 737 NG might work better for UA in a radically simplified fleet with Boeing widebodies. I just worked with the new narrowbodies UA has.

The first reason that lead me to write my notes is that James Kruegel describes ten "types", where I am absolutely unable to count more that NINE MODELS, which from my limited knowledge count for six pilots ratings:...and seven types, from both mechanical and crew trainig point of view (huge powerplants and fuselage differences beween 757 and 767s).

That's Kruggel, not Kruegel. But I digress.

I went back and looked, and indeed UA today has are nine models, not ten. I must have learned to count from Monty Python ("One, two,....Five! Three, sir!) Thanks for catching the error. But my proposal still involves radical simplification from seven types and nine models: Four types, and if the A319-A320 indeed have negligible maintenance penalty between them, five models is still a substantial reduction from what UA has today.


Username: CRJ'sRule [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-24 02:10:56 and read 32768 times.

Nice Article,
One thing that always has bugged me is why some airlines have so many fleet types (excluding the ones they are phasing out i.e 767's, 737's est) that are practicly the same as each other. What I find to be silly is that Air France, Singapore, and Air China all use both A340-300's and 777-200's. Don't they both have the same capabilities as the other and almost the same passenger capacity (I know the A340 is a bit smaller, but not by too much)?

Username: Benny B [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-24 22:03:21 and read 32768 times.

Very good article

Here in Australia, following the demise of Ansett Airlines, a lot of arguments were put up as to why it collapsed. One of these arguments suggested that AN needed to simplify its fleet to reduce costs. But using the Australian example, take a look at the fleets of Ansett and Qantas at around the time of the AN collapse

2x 747-400
4x 767-300
9x 767-200/200ER
20x A320-200
24x 737-300
7x BAe 146-200
3x BAe 146-300

Ansett Regional Affiliates
4x DHC 6-300
2x F100
5x F50
2x F28-4000
7x EMB 120ER
24x S340/340B
2x Metro 23
11x CRJ 200
Plus several smaller Cessna types

Qantas Airways
25x 747-400
6x 747-300
4x 747-200
2x 747-SP
7x 767-200ER
29x 767-300ER
22x 737-400
16x 737-300

Qantaslink (Regional Airline)
8x 717-200
8x BAe 146-100
8x BAe 146-200
2x BAe 146-300
18x DH8-100
4x DH8-200
3x DH8-300
13x Beech 1900D
3x Shorts 360

So as you can see apart from the size of the fleets, the aircraft mix is remarkably simillar. Indeed QF seems to have a more complicated fleet structure. (Although it has since retired some of its 747 classics and does seem to have a better organised regional network with Qantaslink.) AN though did need major upgrades of ageing 767-200 a/c. But that fact aside, there is not too much differance in the actual mix of aircraft type.

Indeed, since then QF has added 737-800's to its fleet and has on order more 744's, A330's and A380's. OK those a/c will replace some of the older types in the fleet, but in a few years, QF will have a real mix a/c and a more complicated fleet structure.

Not wanting to start a boeing/airbus debate In order to simplify airline Fleets, airlines really need to chose between an all airbus or all boeing fleet



Short/medium haul

Long/ultra long haul

Or Boeing

Short medium haul

Long/Ultra long haul

Airbus and boeing through the A318 and 717 now offer regional jet aircraft, or airlines could use CRJs and DH8s for their regional types

So for example QF could thus order the following fleet
737-800 (replacing 737-300)
747-400 (replacing current 744s and 747 classics)
757-300 (replacing 737-400)
767-400ER (replacing 767-200)
777-300ER (replacing 767-300ER)

This would simplify the fleet structure from 8 types down to 5 and boost capacity.

Qantaslink could also reduce down to just 2 types:
717 and DH8 or
CRJ and DH8

Fleet simlification may seem simple on paper though, but it could take up to ten years to renew an entire fleet. By which time you then have to start the process over again. When you consider the cost implications of this on a very margin based industry, it no longer seems simple.

Username: Turbulence [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-25 15:14:17 and read 32768 times.


Sorry for the mistyping, Jim... I maybe learnt typing after seeing Nightmare in Elm Street... Or am I mistaken too?

But I loved your article, fleet simplification is something I always wrote about in these forums each time I had the opportunity, being called pro-Airbus by some simple people just because I defended the absolute commonality of the Airbus narrowbodied series even before 318 was thought of, the differences between these ones and the three 737 generations, and between the 737s themselves.
My most sincere congratulations for your article.

I also would like to add a comment on "automation", regarding CkFred's post.
I could be mistaken, but B777 is, afak, as much automated as 32Xs are. The difference is that they have more system "overriding" possibilities, they have yokes instead of joysticks, and, despite the fly-by-wire controls, the yokes have "sensibility".

Finally, I could be mistaken again, but as from pilots point of view, there's more similarities between glass cockpits of 77Xs and 744s, apart of engines number (we could compare them to the parallel 330s/340s), than between 737s of different generations.

Best turbulences

Username: 747-600X [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-29 19:54:35 and read 32768 times.

Actually, Turbulence, the cockpit most similar to the 777 is the 767-400. The 747-400s supposedly have relatively similar cockpits, but they were invented almost a decade before the 777s, so they are, by 777 standards, less "glassy".
You are right, though, about the 777 being as automated as the A32_s. They can fly themselves just as well, and while I don't know how sensitive a yoke is compared to a stick, I think you're also right about the possibility of a more manually-manipulated cockpit situation in the Boeing. After the AF A320 that crashed into those trees during a low fly by, I'm sure Airbus did something to give pilots a little more ability to tug the thing around even if the computer sees no need.

Username: Turbulence [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-30 12:00:29 and read 32768 times.

Yes!!, I forgot it. Actually, the 764 and the 77Xs have the same cockpit. But for sure there's a commonality between 77Xs and 744s, despite the chronological difference.
About the 777s and 32Xs sensibility, maybe I was not able to express myself as clearly as I should have. The yokes of the 777 have a sensibility, "generated" by the computers, creting the feeling that they are phisically connected to the control devices. They move according to the moves of the airplane, and both toghether. On the opposite hand, the joysticks on the 32Xs do not have this sensibility, and when one of them controls manually the aircraft, the other remains still.

Hope I clarified.

Hope I helped.

Best turbulences

Username: Ruslan [User Info]
Posted 2002-07-01 15:56:24 and read 32768 times.

No, Thank You!

-Delta Fleet Fan

Username: CEO@AFG [User Info]
Posted 2002-07-18 01:23:46 and read 32768 times.

I would go as far as saying that the author doesn't go far enough with the idea of fleet commonality. One critical element is left out, it was merely mentioned as "maintenance" savings. This is the engine selections featured on the various aircraft. With the TWA take-over, AA were left with TWA's mostly PW powered aircraft, and the fleet of BMW/RR powered B717s, they quickly disposed of the B717s, and I think they will get rid of most of the B757/767s from the take-over, if they haven't already.

In the example of UAL, I think it is strange that no one has mentioned the A321, it is slightly smaller than the B752, but with the latest IGW model the A321-200 is able to haul a load of sunhungry Norwegians from Bergen and Oslo to the Canary Islands, without stopping off to refuel.

That is a 5 1/2h flight, much the same as the trans-con US routes operated by the B752. I see that US Airways use their A321s on their routes from the East Coast to LAX... Why shouldn't UAL be able to do the same. Worth mentioning about the A321 and the A32X series, is it's ability to carry palletized goods making baggage/cargo loading/unloading a simple and fast task to complete.

I completly agree with the author (great article btw :) ) that the idea of fleet commonality must be looked at seriously by all major carriers, a fleet strategy is the important factor leading to profit, therefore it is with great interest I have been following local airline SAS' fleet structure, which by any standard is very complex.

SAS seems to be caught in a position where their favoured manufacturer disappeard, and its later purchases have been indecisive of a new strategy. SAS has since it's formation in 1946 been very pro-McDonnell Douglas, only operating a few other types. They operated the DC-3, DC-4, DC-7, DC-8, DC-9 and DC-10 and had options for MD-11s, which they never took up.

The MD-11 order was instead cancelled for the B767-200ER and B767-300ER which was a much better fit for SAS at the time.

Since then SAS' strictly McDonnell Douglas fleet has been cluttered with other types, and other engine options than the standard Pratt & Whitney option have entered the fleet mix. This is part of the high costbase SAS has in 2002, which has presented the airline with it's biggest loss ever recorded.

The current fleet consists of:
A321-200 IAE
A330-300 (deliveries start this Fall) RR
A340-300 CFM
Boeing 737-683 CFM
Boeing 737-783 CFM
Boeing 737-883 CFM
Boeing 767-383ER PW
DHC 8Q-400 PW
Fokker 50 PW
McDonnell Douglas MD-81/82/83 PW
McDonnell Douglas MD-87 PW
McDonnell Douglas MD 90-30 IAE

At one point in this changeover they also operated the Douglas Dc 9-21, Douglas Dc 9-41, Fokker F.28-4000 (inherited by Linjeflyg) and Saab 2000

The A330/340 will eventually replace all B767s and the Fokker 50 will be phased out when the last batch of DHC-8s are delivered. The airline has plans to fully phase out the MD-80 series, but they are still going to stay in the fleet for years to come. The MD-90s will be in the fleet longer, and SAS has toyed with the idea of bringing on more aircraft, as the current 8 isn't financially sound.

That leaves a fleet with the A330/340 flying long haul and 3-4 different short haul aircraft, something is seriously wrong with this. To top it off, SAS ordered their MD-90s without the forward ventral stairs, in a then perceived sound reasoning to cut weight and increase performance and economy. However the aircraft is so gently balanced, that 3 people walking toward the back of an empty aircraft can land the aircraft on its tail. Therefore all SAS MD-90s operate permanently with a number of sandbags in the forward baggage compartment.

Just a little odd story about stupid fleet planning. I'm sure many more exists out there.

Hopefully SAS can come to its senses, and decide on a complete Airbus fleet. This would bring enormous savings for the airline. One engine type on the short haul fleet, in place of three. One flightcrew type rating on the s/h fleet, in place of 4. One cabincrew rating on the s/h fleet, in place of 4. Maintenance savings. And to top it off, the common flight crew rating will give SAS a pool of pilots who can fly the A330/A340 with minimal extra training.

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