HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15604 times:
As the UA-CO merger has been passing the administrative and legal hurdles that are inherent to such mega deals, the new United is preparing to engage into a process of optimizing the use of its available resources so as to optimally affect the new company’s bottom line.
From an operational perspective both airlines are showing considerable discrepancies in the ways in which they have been using the available resources. An analysis of the combined airline’s widebody operation…
An analysis of the flying plan of its of those fleet components shows remarkable differences in the way these aircraft are deployed and in the operational characteristics related to this deployment. The data below are based on timetable data for the week of October 11 through October 17, and while changes typically occur very often, the general picture is bound to remain unaltered.
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 1, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15688 times:
The 111-strong widebody fleet of United Airlines is deployed on both is worldwide international network and on a number of core inter-hub domestic routes as well as between the US mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.
UA’s B763ER fleet consists of 35 aircraft in both an international and a domestic configuration. The international routes served by this aircraft are typically those that do not require the range or the capacity of the larger B772ER or B744 and most international flying with this subfleet is done to the airline’s network of European destinations.
The B763ER is also extensively used on routes within the US and between the US and Hawaii and these flight typically consist of shorter sectors between the airline’s hubs and core stations such as ORD, SFO, LAX, DEN, IAD and HNL.
The exact flying program of the B763ER fleet is as follows:
The international fleet of this aircraft type is mainly operating from the airline’s transatlantic IAD and ORD hubs and the aircraft make almost daily roundtrips between those stations and the airline’s European, South American and African network.
The domestic fleet is operating on trunk inter hub routes and to Hawaii and these aircraft are typically taking care of sectors of shorter stage length.
The operational characteristics of the UA B763ER fleet are as follows:
At an average daily utilization rate of under 12 hours, these aircraft seem underused, and this fact becomes even clear when compared to the numbers posted by Continental for its fleet of B767 aircraft (see later). Obviously, the many domestic sectors of limited stage lengths make utilization rates in excess of 14 hours all but impossible, but the airline could nevertheless squeeze quite a bit more utilization out of its B763ER fleet.
Because of the relatively large number of domestic sectors, the average stage length of these aircraft stands at around 6 hours, which would mean that the aircraft is used as a mere medium haul plane, but of course there is a big discrepancy between those frames deployed internationally and those aircraft that do the domestic sectors.
The B777-200/200ER is the main stay of the United Airlines widebody fleet and the airline operates a large fleet of 52 aircraft in both an international and a domestic configuration. US is operating some of the earliest B772s ever built but it continues to deploy these aircraft on selected transatlantic services.
Unlike the B763ER, the B772ER is mainly used on international sectors although the aircraft operates select domestic services and the small subfleet of domestic configured aircraft are mainly responsible for the airline’s core Hawaii routes. As for the international network, the B772ER operates some of the airlines longest nonstops between the US and Asia as well as a number of core international routes to Europe major airports. The aircraft is also deployed on the airline’s small Middle Eastern network.
The exact flying program for the B772 fleet is as follows:
The B772 operates from all of the airline’s main hub airports and operates into its entire worldwide network. The operational characteristics of this large widebody operation are as follows:
With an average daily utilization rate of around 13.5 hours, United is posting numbers that are around worldwide standards for an aircraft of this type. Yet given the very large size of the operational fleet, this number seems a bit low, and UA could easily get 14 hours of utilization out of this fleet.
An extra utilization of just 30 minutes may seem minimal to some, but on a total fleet count of 52 aircraft such an increase would represent a total utilization increase of 26 hours of total flying time, which is equivalent to one extra longhaul roundtrip per day, without any additional cost and without jeopardizing the operational reliability of the fleet.
As a comparison, airlines such as KLM and Delta (at least in the past) have regularly posted average utilization rates of well of 15 hours per day for much smaller fleets of this type.
The average stage length for B772-operated sectors stands at almost 8.5 hours, which is pretty normal for international standards, and the presence of some shorter domestic sectors makes this number actually rather high. A calculation of the international sectors of this aircraft would yield a rather high sector length.
Over the past couple of years, United has reduced its number of operational B744s to just 24, and looking at the numbers, the airline still seems to struggle to fill up the flying program for these aircraft.
With the exception of one domestic roundtrip between SFO and ORD and one transatlantic roundtrip between SFO and FRA, these aircraft are uniquely deployed across the Pacific where the ensure connections between the airline’s core destinations and its US hubs.
The full flying roster for the 24-strong B744 fleet looks as follows:
With the Australia network and the nonstop ORD HKG flight on its program, the B744 is responsible for the airline’s very longest flights, and the operational characteristics of this fleet look as follows:
With an average utilization rate of just 12h30, these aircraft are definitely underused. Given the near absence of domestic sectors, UA should easily get 2 hours more utilization out of these aircraft, which would cater for 48 hours of extra daily flying time or the equivalent of 2 additional longhaul roundtrip per day. In comparison, KLM is getting almost 15 hours of daily utilization out of a B744 fleet which, with 22 units, is about the same size as that of United.
At 9 hours 23 minutes, the average stage length of these aircraft is typical of a longhaul aircraft that is also deployed on some shorter tag on sectors.
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 2, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15656 times:
The widebody fleet that Continental Airlines is contributing to this merger is less than half of that brought in by United, but these 48 aircraft are very well used and the scheduling seems to be much more efficient than that of the underused United fleet.
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 3, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15652 times:
Continental is achieving a stunning utilization out of its rather smallish fleet of just 10 B762ER aircraft. These aircraft are mainly used between the airline’s EWR hub and destinations within Europe, but can only found in South America and at the IAH hub, The exact flying program is as follows:
This 10-strong fleet is pretty optimally used, thanks in part to the efficient scheduling of the Europe operations from the EWR hub, which require minimal ground times at European stations. The exact operational characteristics of this fleet is as follows:
With 14 hours 28 minutes of daily utilization, Continental is getting the maximum out of these aircraft, while still maintaining operational stability. For a fleet size of just 10 units, these utilization are remarkable and stand in stark contrast to those of the relatively underused United B763ER fleet, even if the latter’s domestic sectors are brought into account.
The average stage length of just over 8 hours is typical for the profile of this aircraft type, which is deployed on typical transatlantic missions of between 7 and 9 hours in stage length.
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 5, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15616 times:
The full flying plan of the Continental B767-400ER fleet is as follows:
The mainline international fleet of B764ER aircraft is deployed between the airline’s EWR and IAH hubs and its core European stations, whereas the high density aircraft operate to and from Guam with the following operational characteristics for the entire fleet:
At almost 14 hours of daily utilization for these 16 aircraft, the utilization is still very high, much for the same reason as it was for the B762ER fleet. Continental is without a doubt world leading in squeezing as much utilization as possible out of its limited wide body fleet.
The average stage length for B764 operated cycles are very similar to those of the B762ER and in line with the typical profile of a mainly transatlantic aircraft.
Having just added two additional aircraft, Continental is now operating 22 units of the B777-200ER, the only aircraft type it has in common with its UA merger partner. These aircraft have always been very well used and are deployed on the airline very longest sectors, some of which have been setting records in terms of stage lengths back when they were launched.
The impressive flight roster of the CO B772ER fleet is the following:
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 8, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15616 times:
With nonstop flights between the US and India, China, Japan and Israel, the CO B772ER fleet is operating some very long sectors of between 12 and 16 hours in stage length and the aircraft is very optimally used through efficient scheduling at the hub’s side. Here are the details:
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 10, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15585 times:
At 14 hour 39 minutes of average daily utilization, the CO B772ER fleet is very well used. Quite obviously the very long stage lengths of some of the flights mentioned above are helpful in achieving this utilization rate, but the airline is doing a very good job at keeping its aircraft in the air by reducing the ground times at outstations through quick turn arounds.
It is hard to imagine how further optimization of this fleet in terms of its utilization could be accomplished given the airline’s network and hub structure. Here again, CO is showing how to make the most of rather limited available resources and airlines such as (the old) United or American could learn a thing or two about effective utilization while maintaining operational stability from CO.
Because of the very long flights on its program, the average sector length for the B772ER is also a rather high 11.5 hours and help in achieving both high utilization and operational stability.
HB-IWC From Greece, joined Sep 2000, 4450 posts, RR: 74 Reply 11, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15585 times:
From what came before, it should be clear that there are quite some differences between the ways in which the merger partners United and Continental have been using their wide body resources. A comparative overview of the operational characteristics of both fleets is included in the following table:
The table above states fleet size, total and average daily utilization rates for both individual fleet types, individual airlines and the new combined airline. It also includes similar information for the total number of operated sectors and the average sectors lengths.
The most eye catching statistic is likely the stark difference between the daily utilization rates of both airlines. At 12 hours 45 minutes versus 14 hours 22 minutes, Continental is achieving 1 hour and 37 minutes of excess utilization out of a fleet that is less than half the size of that of United and equally consists of 3 different aircraft types.
A number of objective elements can at least partly explain this large discrepancy in utilization rates:
the Continental fleet is seeing only very limited deployment on the airline’s domestic network, whereas the United fleet still contains a number of aircraft dedicated to domestic flying. With shorter stage lengths, higher cycles and increased ground times, domestic aircraft tend to bring down utilization rates.
Continental is operating fewer different cabin layouts within the same aircraft type than United, which increases inter changeability of aircraft and improves operational reliability which in turn allows for greater utilization.
Continental is operating a multi hub and spoke network containing just 2 hubs at EWR and IAH, whereas UA is operating widebody flights from 5 mainland airports. Because of the need for spare capacity and operational stability at each of those hubs, an increase in the number of hub airports typically brings down utilization rates.
within its international network, United is still operating a large number of short tags, whereas such tags have been almost eliminated at Continental. Tags increase the number of cycles and ground times and decrease utilization rates.
because of geographical considerations, United has widebody aircraft sitting for extended periods of time at outstations including SIN, BKK, SGN, HKG, ICN, ACC for several hours, whereas Continental has fewer of such cases. These long ground stops, often necessary for scheduling and/or commercial purposes dramatically impact the utilization rates of the aircraft.
related to the previous point, with a more premium heavy 3-class international configuration, United has likely a greater incentive to adjust to what are perceived to be commercially viable schedules, which often lead to longer ground times and a reduction in utilization rates. Continental has less of such incentive, although it must be stated the, in particular its EWR – Europe operations are very efficiently scheduled while still remaining commercially viable.
Even taking all of these factors into account, the fact remains that the United fleet is stunningly underused in comparison with that of Continental, even more so in view of the relative size of each of those fleets.
At an average daily utilization rate of 13 hours 14 minutes for the combined 159 strong fleet of the merged airline, it is clear that utilization will have to go up in the seasons to come. There is too much unused potential in this fleet and it is clear that, just like at Delta, gradual steps will be taken to created synergies that will allow for a more optimal use of available resources.
Just like the average utilization rates, United’s average cycle lengths are also considerable shorter than those of Continental, mainly because of a multitude of domestic sectors. Those shorter stage lengths also imply increased number of cycles and an atypical use of the longhaul widebody equipment.
In view of what was discussed above, it will be very interesting to see what kind of actions will be taking to streamline the operation. The existing operational discrepancies will for sure be ironed out, and we will almost certainly see a more optimal use of certain of the currently underused resources.
I envisage that the fleet wide utilization will increase to at least 14 hours within the next 2 years. Such an increase alone will account for additional utilization of about 120 hours per day, which in turn is enough for 3 additional Europe and 2 additional Asia roundtrips, without compromising operational stability at all.
Of course, a many more considerations are to be taken into account than the raw numbers cited in this review. The exact structure of the combined network is as per yet not exactly clear. Neither is the planning for future fleet developments and their cabin layouts. Quite some standardization will take place there as well, which will inevitably lead to better use of the limited available resources.
It is clear then that this merger has, from an operational perspective, great potential in creating synergies that will dramatically improve the combined airline’s operational performance. Delta and Northwest and very much in the process of achieving these types of operational synergies and no doubt United and Continental will do the same.
STT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16564 posts, RR: 52 Reply 12, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15480 times:
Thanks for the effort you put forth.
Quoting HB-IWC (Reply 1): but the airline could nevertheless squeeze quite a bit more utilization out of its B763ER fleet.
There is still much utilization to be realized from the UA widebodies, hopefully this merger will help them fully realize their long haul fleet utilization potential. CO's widebody utilization is where UA's needs to be going, especially the 763 fleet. I think going forward the domestic utilization of widebodies will soley revolve around international aircraft repositioning between hubs (EWR-IAH, ORD-SFO, LAX-IAD etc..). And most (not all, but most) of the West Coast-Hawaii widebody flights will be replaced with 757-300s.
The new UA needs to free up enough 763s to adequately address CO's trans-Atlantic routes from EWR which have been under served with 757-200s, EWR-BCN, AMS, MAD, LHR, CPH, ARN, OSL, TXL, LIS etc..
TOMMY767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 6442 posts, RR: 9 Reply 13, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15447 times:
Quoting STT757 (Reply 12): The new UA needs to free up enough 763s to adequately address CO's trans-Atlantic routes from EWR which have been under served with 757-200s, EWR-BCN, AMS, MAD, LHR, CPH, ARN, OSL, TXL, LIS etc..
That likely will happen. Also keep in mind the 763s (or even CO 762s) are needed on IAD-DME/ACC. I don't see UA moving those routes to EWR initially. If anything they would keep those routes and add them from EWR.
I also hope to see IAD-MAD on a UA or CO aircraft next summer as opposed to this JV Aer Lingus thing.
"Folks that's the news and I'm outta here!" -- Dennis Miller
FlyPNS1 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 6299 posts, RR: 25 Reply 14, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15429 times:
Quoting HB-IWC (Thread starter): With an average utilization rate of just 12h30, these aircraft are definitely underused. Given the near absence of domestic sectors, UA should easily get 2 hours more utilization out of these aircraft, which would cater for 48 hours of extra daily flying time or the equivalent of 2 additional longhaul roundtrip per day. In comparison, KLM is getting almost 15 hours of daily utilization out of a B744 fleet which, with 22 units, is about the same size as that of United.
IIRC, UA has only been using about 18 of the 744's on a regular basis...not counting one that was recently pulled out of the desert.
mogandoCI From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 15, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15361 times:
Slightly off-topic, but i think UA should switch all their 77A/77E to 3-3-3 seating. The 2-5-2 is one of the major reasons i STILL haven't flown any UA 777 till today. The prospect of getting stuck in the middle scares the living daylights out of me.
EWR should be stuffed with 763 and 77E and the occasional 744 (EWR-LHR, etc), while ORD/IAD should get the 762 and 764. new UA can make SFO-NGO work again with a 762.
New UA/CO should also lease (with option to buy) some 77W to replace the aging 744 fleet. The lease option allows them to wait till whether Boeing wants to update the 77W or if the Airbus A350-1000 is up to par.
STT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16564 posts, RR: 52 Reply 16, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15340 times:
Quoting TOMMY767 (Reply 13): That likely will happen. Also keep in mind the 763s (or even CO 762s) are needed on IAD-DME/ACC. I don't see UA moving those routes to EWR initially. If anything they would keep those routes and add them from EWR.
LAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 23539 posts, RR: 50 Reply 17, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15172 times:
Thanks for the work, but remember things like sub-fleets can work against overall utilization, and not properly reflected in your analysis.
United does not have a homogeneous 777 fleet like CO. Besides the domestic 2-class fleet, there are 3 basic international versions with various route niche's that are driven by things like aircraft MTOW, and crew rest facilities for example.
Same goes with the two UA 763 fleet. Matter of fact they are having reliability issues as the 3-class fleet as it is pushed quite hard with minimal ground time at maintenance bases especially during the summer.
For the 744, yes usage is rather sparing, and United has continued to prune the fleet as the model is too large for profitable use beyond a few markets.
Lastly since you analysed a shoulder season schedule this is one of the slower period with many supplemental or additional frequency flights not operating, and also a period with aircraft in heavy maintenance. I believe there are no less then 4-5 777 out of service for most of the winter.
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
hoya From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 365 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15161 times:
Quoting mogandoCI (Reply 15): but i think UA should switch all their 77A/77E to 3-3-3 seating. The 2-5-2 is one of the major reasons i STILL haven't flown any UA 777 till today. The prospect of getting stuck in the middle scares the living daylights out of me.
The newly configured 777s (at least 4 or 5 as of now) feature a 3-3-3 layout in coach.
GlobalCabotage From United States of America, joined Nov 2009, 602 posts, RR: 0 Reply 19, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 15161 times:
I hate to sound like a broken record, but as usual, an incredible analysis!
Given the new management of UA, I would expect to see much better fleet utilization once integration is completed! There will be a shift of aircraft from hub to hub for sure, but I can't wait to see a 744 in IAH and a 764 at ORD! I think these will happen some day.
runway23 From US Minor Outlying Islands, joined Jan 2005, 2107 posts, RR: 37 Reply 20, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 15053 times:
Great analysis once again.
As outlined, if you compare just CO and UA in Europe, CO tends to keep 90 minute turns in Europe, whilst it isn't rare to see UA planes sitting on the ground for 4+ hours, mainly in order to increase connectivity.
Will be interesting to see what they do going forward and if they use a different approach to timing, especially in station's where both are present and already have fairly similar schedules.
GlobalCabotage From United States of America, joined Nov 2009, 602 posts, RR: 0 Reply 23, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 14926 times:
Given recent threads and discussions, ORD is the one hub that will grow! But to where? And how will AA respond? Probably another thread needed, but all in all, this is a great discussion on UA/CO widebody utilization and will impact UA, AA, and DL (along with others).
seabosdca From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 4731 posts, RR: 4 Reply 24, posted (3 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 14912 times:
There will have to be changes in the new airline's use of widebodies, especially domestically.
The natural changes would seem to me to be the following:
1. 772As take over all high-density flying between the west coast, Hawaii, and the GUM network. Some TATL 772As may be reconfigured to serve this function. Conversely, the CO 764s all become international birds.
2. Some CO 752 capacity moves to the domestic network (especially on premium-heavy services), while most of the UA domestic 763s are reconfigured for two-class international ops and go into that mix.
3. The allocation of two- and three-class international birds get shaken up, based on the economics of each individual market.
4. The CO GE 772s, being the longest-range aircraft in the combined fleet, take over the very-long-haul flying. The 744 may remain on Australia services because of its larger premium cabins.
5. CO 753s are moved onto low-yielding "shovel" routes for both airlines, and away from things like EWR-LAX, freeing up domestic 763 capacity for international ops. They may lose a row or two of F seats.
Most gorgeous aircraft: Tu-204-300, 757-200, A330-200, 777-200LR, 787-8
25 twfirst: This current underutilization of the UA fleet represents one of the most exciting opporitunities created by the merger in my opinion. Delta's huge int