United’s fleet anatomy: first to operate 787 Dreamliner trio

The start of the week marked the day when United Airlines’ first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner began scheduled service between the U.S. carrier’s main hubs. With this aircraft, United became the first airline in the world to operate all three Dreamliner models, including the 787-8, 787-9 and now the longest variant, the 787-10.

United debuted the Boeing 787-10 (UA2418) on January 7, 2019, on service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). The legacy carrier says it expects its second 787-10 Dreamliner to enter service between its hubs in San Francisco (SFO) and New York/Newark (EWR) in February 2019.

At the end of 2018, United became the first North American airline to take delivery of the 787-10 model. The first aircraft was delivered to the carrier on November 5, 2018, while the other two 787-10s arrived the following month, according to Planespotters.net data. The airline states it expects to take delivery of another 11 787-10 aircraft within a two-year period.

United is also now the first airline in the world to have the entire family of Boeing’s 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliners in its fleet and operational. According to Boeing’s orders and deliveries book through December 2018, of the 787 family trio, United currently operates 12 787-8 aircraft which were delivered to the carrier back in 2012 through 2014. Since 2014 through 2018, United took delivery of 25 787-9s; another 13 orders for the model are left unfilled.

“We are honored that United, a leading global carrier, has placed its trust in the 787 family, carefully optimizing their network with all three Dreamliner models.” said Ihssane Mounir, senior VP of Commercial Sales and Marketing for The Boeing Company in an official press release marking the delivery of the first 787-10 to United.

On February 17, 2017, Boeing rolled out the first 787-10. U.S. President Donald Trump was in attendance at the ceremony. (Image: North Charleston, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Only two other carriers hold orders for the trio of the 787 family, that being Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) and British Airways (BA), Flight Global points out. According to Boeing, both ANA and BA operate the -8 and the -9 models. The Japanese airline has placed an order for three 787-10s, still unfilled. Meanwhile, BA has an order for 12 -10s, also unfilled.

United’s Massive Fleet

Overall, the Chicago-based airline operates a staggering number of 770 mainline aircraft and its regional branch United Express flies 559 regional planes across its eight carriers. A massive fleet for the world’s third largest airline by fleet size and the fifth largest by passenger numbers (In 2018, United and United Express operated more than 1.7 million flights carrying more than 158 million passengers).

The average age of United’s fleet is estimated to be more than 15 years: a number dragged down by some of the older aircraft the airline currently operates, such as the Boeing 757s and 767s, with certain models of these jetliners having crossed the average age of 20 years.

Aside of the three Dreamliner family members, United also operates another Boeing trio, the 737. Out of a total of 325 Boeing 737 NG (Next Generation) aircraft, the carrier flies 36 of the -700 variant, 141 of the -800 and 148 of the -900. The youngest of the three models is United’s 737-900 fleet with the average age of seven years. The airline has also taken delivery of 10 new 737 MAX 9s with another 126 orders for these jets unfilled.

And then there is the Boeing 777 duo: United operates 98 of these planes. According to the manufacturer, the carrier has 80 aircraft of the -200 variant and another 18 of the -300, the latter aircraft being the youngest in the mix, having taken delivery of the first 777-300 in December 2016.

United does not shy from flying Airbus jets as well. According to the manufacturer’s orders and deliveries book, as of November 2018, the carrier had 167 Airbus jets in its fleet, out of which 68 were A319s and 99 were A320s. United also had placed an order of 45 A350-900 aircraft from Airbus.

Why the Dreamliner trio?

United has big plans for its newest Dreamliner, expecting to begin international service with the 787-10 in March 2019. The jetliner will serve six trans-Atlantic routes from United’s New York/Newark hub, mainly flying to European destinations, including Frankfurt (Germany), Paris (France), Barcelona (Spain), Brussels (Belgium), and Dublin (Ireland), but also to Tel Aviv (Israel).

Given the emphasis that United puts on passenger comfort, the Boeing 787-10 seems to be a reasonable addition to be deployed on trans-Atlantic routes: it is 18 feet (5.5 meters) longer than the 787-9 model and can carry more passengers and more cargo.

“United is proud to offer more seats between New York and Europe than any other carrier and our Boeing 787-10 aircraft based in New York/Newark will enable us to connect even more New York City customers to Europe and beyond,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s VP of International Network in an official press release.

In a two-class configuration, the -10 can seat 330, which is 40 more the -9 variant. The -10 has a maximum range of 6,430 nautical miles (11,910 kilometers) and can fly using 20% less fuel than older generation airplanes. However, both smaller Dreamliner family members can fly farther: the -8 has a maximum range of 7,355 nmi (13,620 km), while the -9 can cover 7,635 nmi (14,140 km).

“The 787-10 is an excellent addition to United’s fleet. It offers superior fuel efficiency while providing a more comfortable customer experience onboard that allows passengers to arrive at their destinations feeling more refreshed,” said Gerry Laderman, chief financial officer at United, in an official press release announcing the welcoming of the airline’s first 787-10.

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