I can not stop feeling that UA is in a deep Catch 22 situation.
Reading the aviation press [and more so the non-aviation], UA is still bleeding huge amount of money and are severely risking running out of DIP-finance before they can say "Shuttle by United".
UA not only need to bring cost under control, they also desperately need to raise some serious cash, since I don't think they'll get another trench of DIP. It's either raise cash or straight out chapter 7. However raising cash means selling assets, and not some South-American routes that nobody really wants [or at least not willing to cough up some serious bucks for...]. They'll need to sell assets that will generate good money, which is going to be very difficult these days.
Only three assets will generate such cash: LHR routes, Pacific routes, 744 fleet.
The catch is when they sell their LHR/Pacific routes, they are no longer a serious airline, and will lose most of their premium customers [FF will run away to other network carriers or even LCC] and thus will most likely face Chapter 7. But not selling assets may lead them in Chapter 7 even faster. . .
I think there is consensus here that selling routes [either LHR or Pacific] really is the beginning of the end. So it looks like they'll have to sell the 744 fleet and transform their long haul operation into a leaner operation [a bit like CO], and adjust their routes as required to operate without 744.
The second hand market for the 744 is not really good the moment. The market for used 744 is going towards cargo. Cargo carriers are willing to pay up to $ 50-60M for a 744SFD. The cost of conversion is approx 15M -20M, meaning that a 744 airframe could fetch up to 30-40M, depending on mod status and maintenance. UA has something like 40 744s [?]. Theoretically, these could generate up to $1000M including spares. Beyond the direct cash [if anyone will buy them in the first place], they would bring very welcome savings through a simplified long haul fleet structure. UA would then have to work with the 777 and 767 for their long haul fleet, and adjust their route structure accordingly. Meaning, removing 777/767 from domestic ops by cutting mainline domestic, and dropping long haul routes if sufficient or suitable equipment is no longer available.
I'm not sure if I hope that UA will winter the storm. Re-emerging from Chapter 11 may be the absolute nightmare scenario for ALL US-network carriers, and may very well be the path that they all have to follow. An rest assured, some of them will nor re-emerge...
Don't get me wrong, I mean I feel tremendously sorry for all of the families that are going to suffer from bankruptcy [either Ch.11 or 7], but I can not help feeling that employees are as much at fault as management. If I understood correctly, UA was basically an employee owned airline. As such, the same employees can not just point the finger to management... the employees were [indirectly] responsible for that management in the first place. I will not go into [overpaid] pay-schemes and summer of hell, since I have not sufficient knowledge on these subjects from the other side of the pond. However these things now look completely different in the light of looming bankruptcy as compared to a couple of years ago.
Sometimes it can be very refreshing to look back a couple of years and start realising where you might have made a difference yourself, setting things in perspective with the benefit of hindsight, and not picking on others. Not pointing on anyone, just asking everyone too first look at themselves prior to pointing any fingers. Well, that's what my mother always taught me. . . .
Hmmm, I should leave my keyboard alone now. Anyway, if anyone has different views, I will be most interested to read and learn from them.
Best luck to you all, I hope the new year will leave some of the dark days of aviation behind us...
Immigration officer: "What's the purpose of your visit to the USA?" Spotter: "Shooting airliners with my Canon!"