United Airlines customers can expect to see more of the carrier’s Boeing 787 “Dreamliners” flying from Washington Dulles starting this winter.
United’s Dreamliners will take over the airline’s routes from Washington Dulles on several high-profile routes, including the carrier's non-stop flights from Dulles to Beijing, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Sao Paulo.
The move comes as United said it would close its 787 pilot base at its hub at Houston Bush Intercontinental, which was the carrier’s initial Dreamliner base when it began receiving its first 787s in 2012. United also has opened 787 pilot bases at its hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, airports from which the airline uses its Dreamliners for long trans-Pacific routes.
The news about the 787 shift was first reported by FlightGlobal reporter Edward Russell, who cited an April 6 company letter to pilots from Howard Attarian, United’s SVP of flight operations.
Attarian billed the move as one that would help United with schedules to reduce the amount of time its 787s will spend on the ground between flights.
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"Changes to our 787 flying will effectively add an entire 787 aircraft to our fleet for free," Attarian said in the letter to pilots.
United’s fleet currently includes 12 787-8s and 20 787-9s, according to FlightGlobal.
Attarian also stressed that the shift in Dreamliner flying would not result in any routes being dropped from Houston. Instead, Attarian said Dreamliner routes from Houston would be picked up by other aircraft. As examples, he said United would switch from a 787 to a Boeing 777-200 for its Houston-Frankfurt flights and to a Boeing 767-300ER on its Houston-Buenos Aires flights, according to FlightGlobal.
FlightGlobal called the 787 change the “latest from United in a larger effort to raise aircraft utilization across its fleet,” noting the company has undertaken similar measures elsewhere in its network.
"Improving our fleet utilization is an important initiative underway at United," Attarian is quoted as saying in the letter. "By flying our aircraft harder each day, we can grow the airline without actually adding aircraft to our fleet."