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Mobilizing Our Forces

Richard Lung 
Director-Flight Crew Scheduling

The Pilot Schedule, January 2000

Since the last six-month overview, we have seen a number of changes across our four theaters of operations.  The Pacific has started to recover. While competition is intensifying in Europe with industry, capacity growth exceeding demand growth, the Atlantic continues to remain strong for United. Latin America continues to operate under destabilized economic and competitive environments.  In the US, domestic demand continues to remain strong, although we are seeing some pretty aggressive industry capacity growth that may result in some possible future weakness.

Yet again, because of our flexible fleet plan, we have been able to mobilize our forces quickly. We are redeploying B400 aircraft in unprecedented fashion back to the Pacific from domestic operations, adding more flights and bigger planes to Europe, flying smaller planes while maintaining a market presence in Latin America, and domestically, starting to fill out our IAD and LAX hubs.

This is my best expectation for the next six to 12 months, again with the caution that things could change fairly quickly.  I pledge to keep you informed of any developments in the meantime.

No official change to the firm fleet plan from six months ago.  A decision should be made soon on whether to convert the A319/A320 options to replace the 75 B727s in the 2001 to 2004 time frame.  We'll keep you informed of any developments.  The firm fleet plan still lays out like this:

Year End Firm Fleet Plan
(excluded options)

  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
B747-400 43 44 44 44 44
B747-100/200 7 7 1 0 0
B777 40 48 56 61 61
DC10 13 7 4 4 4
B767/757 149 152 154 154 154
A319/A320 84 100 133 133 133
B727-200 75 75 75 75 75
B737-300/500 158 158 158 158 158
B737-200 24 24 24 24 24
Total 593 615 649 653 653

B400.  Since the last overview, we added B400 LAX-MEL service in December 1999 and announced plans to fly SFO-SEL and SFO-SHA in April 2000 and SFO-PEK in June 2000.  These aircraft are sourced from current domestic hub-to-hub missions, which will be backfilled with new 2-class B767-300 and B777 deliveries.  Each of these B400 routes generates 15-20 Captain and 40-55 First Officer jobs compared to the current crew complement of six Captain and six First Officers for domestic flying.  Despite the Pacific recovery, we are still a little long on B400s.  We expect to continue to deploy B400s to Europe in 2000: to fly SFO-LHR and ORD-FRA, flown with SFO and ORD crews, respectively.  Last year we had flown B400s from IAD-FRA/LHR with crews from ORD and LAX.  We take the 44th and last B400 in April 2000.

With HNL closing Jan. 31, the remaining B747-238 flying will be consolidated at SFO, with HNL to Mainland and hub-to-hub flying with seven aircraft. This flying level is expected to remain stable for 2000, as no B747-238s are retired until 2001, with the last retired March 2002.

The second B777 Pacific mission yet-to-be-determined will probably be in late 2000. As the Pacific continues to recover, we can expect to see previously canceled routes return in B777B bunked aircraft: LAX-KIX, ORD-KIX, LAX-NRT#2, etc. Over time, expect to see B400s and B777s redeployed back and forth between the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation depending on capacity needs.  New B777 service LAX-CDG starts spring 2000. A new SFO to European continent B777 service is also expected in spring 2000, but this is contingent on acquiring slots. IAD-MXP will be upgauged from B767 to B777 service starting spring 2000.

We take delivery of eight B777s in 2000, six of which are delivered in two-class domestic configuration. These will be used to fly SFO/LAX to the Hawaiian Islands and to backfill for some of the B400s currently flying hub-to-hub missions that will be reassigned to fly Pacific. We expect to fly Hawaiian Islands to SFO in early 2000 and to LAX in late 2000.

LAX DC10 closes Jan. 31. Expect to see a SFO DC10 base closing 3Q/4Q 2000 and ORD 3Q 2001. Six DC10-10 are phased out in 2000.

B767/757 missions should not change appreciably. As we take more 2-class B767-300s (three in 2000), they will be deployed on hub-to-hub missions and West Coast to Hawaiian Islands. There may be some increase in B767/757 flying form LAS/SFO to Hawaiian Islands as the DC10s phase out in 2000. ORD-GRU will be downguaged from B777 to B767 service spring 2000.

We are taking delivery of 16 growth A319/A320s in 2000. Most likely these aircraft will be deployed in LAX, DEN or IAD, unless slot restrictions lift at ORD. The A320 will continue to replace the B300s and B727s on longer haul mid-con missions. Look for the B727s to continue to move east to Business One markets, and the B300s to serve high utilization short-haul missions, some of which may be in U30 operations.

Domicile Issues
Over the last year we opened LAX B777, SEA B777 and HNL B400. We do not expect any new domicile openings this year. Possible additional new domiciles 2001 and beyond include DEN B777, DCA B400, MIA A320, SEA A320 AND DCA U30. These domicile openings would be based on meeting the domicile opening guidelines that we've mentioned in past articles: schedule efficiency; critical mass (ability to build to 30 lines over time); domicile stability and human factors; permanence of route and fleet assignments; and ALPA input. In the meantime, we will be employing a "domicile stability" strategy; that is, to maintain or grow all existing equipment domiciles, except those of our retiring fleets.

Recently, this domicile stability strategy was put to the test for JFK B777. Aircraft Scheduling had wanted to downguage EWR-LHR to a B767.
This would have meant closing of the JFK B777 equipment domicile, as that was the only B777 entry remaining.  JFK-EZE had been downgauged from a B777 to a B767 last year.  We convinced Aircraft Scheduling that if they expected future B777 flying out of NYC, they would need to keep EWR-LHR as a B777.  Economically and politically, it would be difficult to reopen the base in the future.  Coupled with strong demand and a desire to have the First-Class bed product in the NYC-London market, Aircraft Scheduling agreed to keep EWR-LHR a B777.

B767 JFK loses ORD-DUS to IAD, since IAD was down to only one international trip for the summer (IAD-BRU) and DENTK wanted us to maintain at least two international trips out of IAD to help maintain training proficiency. JFK A320 lines now have a greater mix of domestic missions after operating CCS/LIM for several months.  All other fleets are expected to be stable.

Summer over summer, B777 service should grow by two missions. Next summer, IAD-LHR/FRA service returns to all B777 service. B400s (ORD/LAX crews) had flown one roundtrip each this past summer.  In addition IAD-MXP gets upgauged from B767 to B777 service, leaving only IAD-BRU as the lone B767 flight out of IAD.  DCA B767 also loses ORD-CDG#2, which was converted to LAX-CDG service.  DCA B767 will get the ORD-DUS flight through the summer in order for crews to maintain training proficiency.  LAX-LHR#2 that had been flown by DCA B777 in 1999 is expected to be flown by the ORD B777 to backfill for the loss of ORD-GRU to B767 service.

Possible U30 domicile in 2001 and B400 domicile in 2001 if significant and permanent entries out of IAD.

B767 lines expected to increase with ORD-GRU returning to B767 service starting spring 2000, partially offset by cancellation of LIM-MIA B757 service after years of hefty losses.  B777 base expected to remain stable with flights from MIA to GRU and EZE.  Temporary B400 service MIA-EZE is a possibility from an Aircraft Scheduling standpoint but would not be desirable from a domicile stability standpoint.  We would voice our concerns if this were to happen.  With MIA-LIM canceled, a MIA A320 base for now is not feasible. Future flying to the Caribbean, Central or South America and/or general A320 fleet growth, especially as the B727s are replaced, would allow us to look seriously at MIA A320 again.

Since ORD is a slot-controlled airport, expect overall stable line levels but a shifting of lines from smaller to larger equipment.      If slots lift, ORD should see significant growth, with all growth narrowbody deliveries deployed to ORD and quite possibly aircraft redeployed at least temporarily from other hubs.

ORD B400 will fly ORD-FRA for the summer, instead of deadhead to fly IAD-LHR this past summer.  ORD B777 loses ORD-GRU but is expected to pick up LAX-LHR#2 to maintain domicile stability.   Possibility second ORD-NRT could convert to B777 in future, and ORD-KIX returning as a B777, but probably not until 2001.

No real changes here.  Possible B777 base, especially if we receive DEN-LHR route authority. Still would like to have other flying DEN-FRA and/or domestic to support an efficient base. DEN could receive some of the 16 growth A319/A320s in 2000.

Not enough A320 entries to justify A320 base.  A320 base a greater possibility if ANC-SEA converts to permanent A319 flying and/or as A320s grow systemwide, especially as B727s start being replaced.  B767 and U30 operations fairly stable. Additional domestic B777 flying a possibility.

Big news here is the unprecedented growth in the SFO B400 base with new missions to SHA, SEL, PEK and LHR by the summer.  SFO B777 will lose LHR (to the B400) but is expected to pick up a new SFO-European continent service (slots pending). Two-class B777 flying to Hawaiian Islands may increase line levels.  B747-238 flying consolidates in SFO after HNL base closing February 2000.  B767 base expected to remain stable.  May be slight growth with two-class B767-300 domestic flying to Hawaii. SFO DC10 expected to close 3Q 2000.  B727 expected to remain viable until at least 2001 when we expect to start replacing B727s with A319s/A320s.  We continue to evaluate earlier of the DC10 and B727 bases, but training and other manpower constraints make these infeasible at this time.  We will keep you informed of any possible developments.

LAX B400 picked up LAX-MEL in December 1999, but will lose LAX-IAD-FRA as IAD-FRA returns to B777 service this summer. LAX B777 will pick up LAX-CDG service spring 2000 and likely Hawaii service late 2000.  It should exceed the 30-line level in 2001 with LAX-LHR#2 and possibly some Pacific flying in bunked aircraft. DC10 base closes Jan. 31.  B767 may grow slightly with more flying to Hawaiian Islands to backfill for DC10s as they are replaced.  Expect to see some growth of A320 lines as we bid up to cover new A320 flying to southern-tier cities (IAH, DFW, ATL, MIA and MCO).  Slight growth in the U30 lines to cover new Shuttle flying.

No real changes here. A three to four aircraft operation is expected to  continue to exist here until August 2001, when the   passenger DC10s retire.

HNL B747 closes Jan. 31 and HNL B400 opens Feb. 1, with flying HNL-SFO for one month. HNL will then fly HNL-NRT March 1. On May 1, one NRT-tag is added.

We expect to hire 900-1,000 pilots this year, compared to 799 last year.  We anticipate that approximately 400 pilots will retire this year (this includes age 60, MD, etc.).