Pontifications: Book Review: “Turnaround Time” at United Airlines

Turnaround Time: United an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies, by Oscar Munoz with Brian DeSpinter. $32.00. Available on Amazon and other outlets.

By Scott Hamilton

July 25, 2023, © Leeham News: Oscar Munoz had been the chief executive officer of United Airlines only about a month when he suffered a massive heart attack that almost killed him. His heart was in such bad shape that he needed a heart transplant.

Munoz was an executive of the railroad company CSX, and on the UAL Board of Directors, scandal erupted at United. Jeff Smisek, the CEO who took over United from the same position at Continental Airlines when UAL and Continental merged in 2010, had agreed to add service between Newark (NJ) and a South Carolina city to appease an executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port owns and operates Newark (and New York’s LaGuardia and JFK airports). The emerging scandal led to the removal of Smisek, and others involved.

Munoz was a reluctant and somewhat odd choice. He had no airline experience, other than being on the Continental and later United boards of directors. He was in line to become CEO of CSX. He initially turned down being considered for the United CEO position when approached by a fellow UAL Board member. But with the Port Authority scandal, and a broken United which had not fully integrated the merger with Continental, he relented.

Munoz tells his story in Turnaround Time: United an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies. This newly published book is a combination of an autobiography and the turnaround of a troubled United.

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United orders 100 Boeing 787s, 100 Boeing 737s, defers Airbus A350 again

Dec. 13, 2022, © Leeham News: United Airlines today announced a massive order for 100 Boeing 787s and 100 Boeing 737 MAXes. Sub-types weren’t announced. Neither were the engine types for the 787s, which are powered by either GE Aerospace’s GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000.

An order for 45 Airbus A350s was deferred again, this time to at least 2030. Deliveries were to begin in 2027. The order had been deferred at least twice previously. Reuters reported “United CEO Scott Kirby told reporters ‘the right time for 350 versus (787) conversation is when we’re replacing the bulk of the 777s, which really doesn’t begin to the end of the decade.’” Most observers believe this order will be canceled eventually.

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At least one more big airline order, Air India, is expected before the end of the year.

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HOTR: Tuesday’s Boeing announcement may give indication of A350 future at United

By the Leeham News Team

Dec. 9, 2022, © Leeham News: The engine selection on a big Boeing 787 to be announced Tuesday may be the most definitive signal yet of what United Airlines will do with its oft-deferred Airbus A350 order.

United is considered certain at some point to cancel its orders for 45 A350s. This order has been deferred several times. The new order to be announced Tuesday for up to 100 or more Boeing 787s adds to the more than 60 already in the fleet. United clearly doesn’t need a large fleet of 787s and a smaller fleet of A350s.

But canceling the Airbus order is not without some cost. It’s believed that penalties to Airbus are manageable. These also may be mitigated by an order for A321neos. This can solve Airbus’s concerns. But it does nothing for Rolls-Royce, which provides the engines for the A350s.

Rolls is not an engine supplier for the A321neo. United’s swapping the A350 for the A321 means Rolls loses that future business. What’s the mitigation for Rolls?

United may split the engine order for the 787 between incumbent GE Aerospace and Rolls. If the engine selection is announced Tuesday and the order is split, this will be the clearest indication yet that the A350 order will be history. United and Boeing scheduled a press conference at the 787 production and assembly plant in Charleston (SC).

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Exclusive: No change in Scope Clause in new United pilot contract that would have allowed E175-E2

By Scott Hamilton

June 24, 2022, (c) Leeham News: There is no change to the Scope Clause in the new United Airlines pilot contract governing the number of regional jets that can be operated by regional partners, LNA confirms.

There is also no change in the weight of the aircraft allowed, a blow to Embraer’s hopes for the E175-E2. The E2 is heavier than the E175-E1, which entered service in 2004. Embraer designed the E2 to be used with the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine. The GTF is more economical than the E1’s GE CF34, quieter, and emits fewer emissions. But it is slightly heavier than the Scope Clause contracts permit. The USA is virtually the only market for the E175-E2.

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With high cargo prices, will airlines fly larger aircraft in their widebody fleets?

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By Bjorn Fehrm


October 14, 2021, © Leeham News: Over the last weeks, we’ve seen that the present cargo crunch and high yields will influence what aircraft variants airlines purchase. Models that are too large passenger-wise for years to come will be paid for by a longer belly that can take more cargo.

This trend will remain as long as cargo prices are high. Will the high cargo yields also affect what aircraft to keep stored and which to fly of an existing fleet? We apply the analysis to an airline with a fleet of Boeing 777s.

  • The increased yields for air cargo changes the fleet planning for the widebody fleet. The most suitable passenger models stay in the desert, and the longer siblings fly despite lower load factors.

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Exclusive: Mitsubishi ponders restarting CRJ production

By Scott Hamilton

July 6, 2021, © Leeham News: Mitsubishi is considering restarting production of the discontinued CRJ, LNA confirmed with multiple sources.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries discontinued production with the completion of the last of the small backlog it acquired with the June 1, 2019, purchase of the program from the ailing Bombardier. The final 15 CRJ900s were completed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Montreal Mirabel Airport production line was shut down. The tooling was removed and stored. The buildings were turned over to Airbus, which now uses them for A220 production.


Source: Bombardier.

“Our primary focus remains the support of the CRJ operating fleet,” said Ross Mitchell, vice president of Shared Services.  “Clearly, the regional jet market is important to us, but we have made no commitment to move forward in this respect.”

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Podcast: 10 Minutes About the United-Boom SST agreement

June 8, 2021, © Leeham News: United Airlines and the start-up company, Boom, last week announced an agreement by which UAL will acquire up to 50 Boom Overture SSTs.

There are some conditions Boom must meet before United will accept any airplanes. Furthermore, Boom must raise a lot of money to complete development.

In today’s episode of 10 Minutes About, LNA discusses the commercial agreement and just a few of the issues facing development of the Overture.

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Pontifications: Qatar, United, Boom, Airbus and Aerion

By Scott Hamilton

June 7, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s been a busy couple of weeks in commercial aviation, with several reports last week alone.

  • Qatar Airways expresses interest in Boeing 777X-F and Airbus A350F.
  • United Airlines announces a “commercial agreement” with Boom Supersonic to purchase 15 Overture jets and option 35.
  • Boeing exploring reinventing the 757.
  • Airbus moves toward a new wing for A320 family.
  • Aerion Aviation terminates program, shuts down. May 21.

Some of these reports were new and interesting Others were over-hyped and fluff.

Let’s run them down.

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HOTR: 500 “destinations” for Boom goes bust

June 4, 2021, © Leeham News: “Overture can connect more than 500 destinations.”

That’s what United Airlines said in its press release this week about its “commercial agreement” with Boom Supersonic. UAL “ordered” 15 Overture airplanes with an option for 35 more.

“More than 500 destinations” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. LNA understands this to mean 500 cities. If UAL and Boom meant “city pairs,” then this commonly used term should have been used.

The common dictionary definition is “the place where someone is going or where something is being sent or taken.”

Examples used in the definition are, “The Virgin Islands are a popular tourist destination,” or a “holiday destination.” More on point, one example used is quite common in airline lingo: the term “final destination.”

So, this lends to the interpretation “500 destinations” means 500 “cities.”


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Why bailouts make sense under these circumstances

By Scott Hamilton


By Scott Hamilton

March 18, 2020, © Leeham News: The Federal government is preparing a bailout, said to be more than $1 trillion, to pump into the US economy.

Airlines want $50bn. Boeing wants $60bn for the aerospace industry. It’s unclear how much is for Boeing and how much is for industry.

Opposition for the airlines and Boeing was quick to emerge. The objection: how much each spent in recent years on shareholder buybacks.

The bailout package goes across the US economy and includes direct cash grants to individuals. In keeping with LNA’s business, I focus in the column only on aviation.

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