United Airlines will retire its Boeing 747 fleet in Q4, a year earlier than planned. President Scott Kirby announced that the company will bring forward the retirement of the 20-strong fleet in a message posted to employees on January 11. “As deeply connected as we all are to this iconic aircraft, the time has come to retire our 747 fleet from scheduled service,” he wrote. “It’s a bittersweet milestone — this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel. Today, there are more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft that provide an updated inflight experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights.”
United introduced the 747 in 1970 flying between California and Hawaii but with a major overhaul of its long haul fleet underway the jumbo’s time is up. The airline has 32 787 Dreamliners in service and has just taken delivery of its maiden 777-300ER. It also has 35 Airbus A350-1000s on order with deliveries due to begin in 2018.
Kirby said the airline would ensure a “smooth transition” to other fleets for staff who work on the 747, adding that the airline was planning an “unforgettable” retirement celebration for the Queen of the Skies.
Scott Kirby has been named president of United Airlines. This is a newly created role at the airline and will see Kirby assume responsibility for United’s operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning and revenue management. His appointment is effective immediately and he will report to United CEO Oscar Munoz.
“Scott is a proven leader, whose deep airline experience and expertise will further accelerate our efforts to build the best airline in the industry,” said Munoz. “His appointment, along with other recent leadership announcements, is the culmination of the formation of my senior leadership team. This is just the latest step in our mission to be an agile and innovative industry leader.”
Kirby was previously President of American Airlines where he has been replaced by Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom.
“Robert is a world-class executive, and extremely well-qualified to assume the role of president,” said Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “He has played an important role in the success American has become, including leading our operational integration and building an outstanding team. Robert is an engaging leader with a talent for growing and inspiring the colleagues around him. As president of American Airlines, Robert will do great things for our team members, our customers and our shareholders.”
Parker paid tribute to Kirby saying: “Scott has been a key member of our team for over 20 years. We would not be where we are today without his leadership. The more than 100,000 team members of American Airlines – most notably me – will be forever grateful to Scott.”
United Airlines is accelerating the retirement of its Boeing 747-400s with the entire fleet to be phased out by the end of 2018. To fill the void left by the Jumbo’s withdrawal, the US carrier has converted some of its outstanding orders for the 787-8 Dreamliner – due to join the airline from 2020 – into four 777-300ERs and five 787-9s with deliveries beginning in 2017.
“Retiring the 747 fleet and replacing those aircraft with more customer-pleasing, current-generation aircraft creates a more reliable and efficient fleet that provides a better overall experience for our customers travelling on long-haul flights,” Gerry Laderman, United’s Senior Vice President Finance and acting Chief Financial Officer.
United’s short-haul fleet continues to get a makeover too with the announcement of a purchase of a further 25 737-700s in addition to the previously declared order for 40. Delivery of these will start at the end of 2017 and enable United to reduce the size of its 50-seat regional fleet.
The airline currently has firm orders for 35 Airbus A350-1000s, 153 aircraft from the 737 family, plus ten 777-300ERs and 27 Dreamliners. It also has firm commitments for ten Embraer E175s, which will be flown by United Express partners.