United Airlines executives have told analysts that they anticipate a fleet of 25 to 50 mainline aircraft with around 100 seats.
The Chicago-based carrier would need at least 25 and up to 50 of the aircraft in order for such a fleet to “make sense given the added complexity associated with training, spares provisioning and maintenance”, writes STIFEL analyst Joe DeNardi in a report on 9 December following meetings with United executives.
DeNardi met with United’s chief revenue officer Jim Compton, acting chief financial officer Gerry Laderman and chief operating officer Greg Hart.
Laderman said in November that the airline needed at least 30 100-seat aircraft.
“There is a natural need for a small mainline narrowbody,” he says.
A deal including an order for a 100-seat aircraft could be part of the agreement-in-principal that United reached with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) in November. While the carrier and union have declined to comment on details of the deal, Compton previously confirmed that Unitedhad put an order for a small mainline aircraft on the table in talks with ALPA.
“We’re talking about an early opening with the pilots and finding a way that we can do that – make it win-win and bring in potentially a fleet that allows us to match demand to capacity better,” he said in October.
Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer are competing for the potential order, says DeNardi. He views an order with Airbus or Boeing the “more likely outcome” but adds that Bombardier is likely “being very aggressive with pricing”.
Bombardier flew one of its CS100 flight test vehicles to Chicago O’Hare International airport for an event with United employees and officials on 19 November.
United's pilots agreement allows it to add up to 30 more 76-seat regional jets to its feeder fleet if it adds a small narrowbody to its mainline fleet. A small narrowbody is defined as either the CS100 or Embraer E190 or E195 in the contract.
Separately, DeNardi says United plans to roll out its new no-frills fare class to better compete with ultra low-cost carriers in the second half of 2016.
“We are finding a way to ensure that we have a competitive option… we are not prepared to concede that our customers should fly on any of our competitors,” United’s acting chief executive Brett Hart told reporters on 9 December.