What are the current routes?
As of Summer 2019, they will be:
I actually wouldn't be surprised to see the new 77Ws serve ORD-HKG and one of the ORD-FRA frequencies. ORD-HKG is one of the longest remaining 772 routes, and those are some of the routes UA has been targeting for the 77W. I could also potentially see one of the SFO-PVG frequencies or EWR-PVG getting upgauged (but only if UA doesn't get awarded their requested 2nd EWR-PVG frequency).
I’m not sure why it keeps being suggested EWR/ORD-HKG need to be operated by the 77W simply because they are the longest 77E routes.
The 77E, even the PW-powered ones have been operating these routes for years, successfully. The 77W has 74 more seats than the Polaris configured 77E. If UA doesn’t feel they can confidently sell 74 additional seats on EWR/ORD-HKG there is no reason to upgauge.
I flew on a Polaris/PE configured PW 77E in December NRT-ORD and the aircraft looked brand new on the inside. From a hard product standpoint the 77E and 77W are 1:1 so the 77W doesn’t bring a value add in that regard either.
True - the range alone doesn't justify the switch from 77E to 77W. If UA is capable of filling their 77Es to the brim with passengers and cargo and is not having any performance issues, then there would be no reason to swap the route to the larger 77W unless the demand warranted it. Was that the case with EWR-HKG? I thought I remembered hearing that the 77E was absolutely at its limits on that route, and UA couldn't take much cargo in addition to a full passenger load. Maybe I'm mis-remembering... Also, I think it's worth pointing out that while UA has been operating ORD-HKG for years on the sUA 772s, they jumped at the chance to put the more capable sCO 772s on the route this coming summer (once some capacity on other routes had been freed up by the incoming 78Js and 77Ws, and the FA groups were integrated). So UA obviously felt there was some room for improvement in the range of the aircraft operating the route.
This is my signature until I think of a better one.