1 Word: ConsolidationFor United and other airlines to survive, I think a simple consolidation of fleets will solve a number of problems with minimal impact on the business. By consolidation, I mean establish one plane as THE plane, and sell off everything else. For my money, I would recommend a mid-size Boeing 737. First, by standardizing the fleet on one plane, United would drastically simplify operations for the following reasons:- United would only have to train their maintenance staff on one plane, meaning savings in training cost. Additionally, if someone were sick, it would be easy to find someone with the same expertise. - United could consolidate spare parts. By only having one type of plane to maintain, United could drastically reduce the amount of spare parts, and people working with spare parts issues (i.e. ordering, delivering, etc.)- Pilots would all be trained on one plane, making it easier to find subs in case of sickness, vacation, etc. Additionally, pilots would likely have more of an incentive not to strike, as someone could be easily found to replace them. Next, by standardizing on a mid-size plane, United would reduce the manpower needed on certain routes. It simply takes a bigger flight crew to fly a 767 as it does to fly a 737, which brings me to my next point.Finally, standardizing the fleet should be much easier to do now that the skies are not so full. In the past, certain routes needed a 767 to fly because so many people were on those flights. Now, with flights half full, the process of standardizing on a smaller plane would have a minimal impact on revenue. However, the impact on the bottom line would be huge. Taking the same amount of passengers, only now on a 737 as opposed to a 767, would generate the same revenue, except with much less operating expense (less gas, less time to board, less staff, etc.)By simplifying operations, United could once again become successful...
1 word: unrealistic......unless you think that UAL should become a regional carrier. The range on the B737 is rather limited. Some of UAL's most profitable segments are international routes which require ETOPS aircraft in the 767, 777, 747 (Boeing) classes.That said, the concept of "standardization" on limited fleet type is an intriguing one which could in fact result in more efficient manpower and inventory management.I don't know that I'd characterize today's skies as "not so full". IMHO, the ATC system is still woefully inadequate, and the number of runways barely sufficient.Simplifying is often the best approach to problem solving, and there are ways that UAL could and should simplify. However, the hub and spoke system of airline travel is inherently complex, but is an efficient way for a carrier to retain the customer from start to finish of their journey.
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