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Old 10-22-2010, 11:52 AM   #1
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Default United: Growth plans on little expenditure

Read between the lines: Don't even think this fight for pay and scope is going to be in anyway easy. Also, note the payment to Lufthansa and Air Canada mentioned at the end of the article. All red text is emphasis added by me.

United makes global plans on shoestring budget

Following merger with Continental, 18 new routes added and plans for international expansion are in works. Resources, however, will not be added.

October 21, 2010|By Julie Johnsson, Tribune Reporter

Newly merged United Airlines, which encompasses the old Continental Airlines, has global ambitions and a pile of cash.


But executives at the world's largest carrier are under orders to keep spending in check and to get the most out of the airline's 700-strong jet fleet as they knit the remnants of United and Continental together into a worldwide network.


United on Thursday unveiled the first major changes that it plans to make to its domestic network since its merger with Continental, adding a total of 18 new routes, including service from Denver to Dallas Love Field, Southwest's home base. The carrier previously said it would extend its reach overseas with new flights to Mexico, Shanghai and, pending government approval, Cairo.


O'Hare International Airport was the only hub not to gain new destinations in the first wave of expansion by the new United, but it hasn't been overlooked, said United spokeswoman Jean Medina.


"O'Hare serves a wide breadth of destinations today," she said. "That said, we're just beginning to roll out the new destinations, and we expect to add additional cities from O'Hare soon."


Breaking with precedent, United said it would extend its reach by stretching existing resources rather than ordering scores of new planes.
Its capacity will increase just 1 percent to 2 percent in 2011, United CEO Jeff Smisek told analysts Thursday, reinforcing the tight curbs on growth and spending that have propelled the Chicago carrier and its peers to profitability.


"I want to be clear that at the new United, we remain committed to capacity discipline," Smisek said during his first earnings call as United's chief executive. He headed Continental prior to the merger.


United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company created by the Oct. 1 merger of United and Continental, released earnings Thursday for both sides of its business. United reported that net income during the third quarter rose to $473 million, or $2.12 per diluted share, excluding fuel and merger-related charges. That's a $533 million improvement from 2009 results.


Continental's net income of $367 million, or $2.24 per share, was a $365 million improvement over prior-year results.


In fact, Bloomberg calculated that the eight largest U.S. carriers reported a combined net income of $2.44 billion for the quarter, surpassing analysts' estimates.


United was among the first to adopt a no-growth strategy in 2008 as skyrocketing oil prices were followed by the Great Recession. Although the economy is recovering slowly, major airlines have kept a tight lid on capacity, in contrast to the industry's previous boom-bust cycles.


"This is all new territory, and it really didn't happen until oil hit $140 (per barrel)," said Roger King, airline analyst with CreditSights Inc. "Then, people realized you can't fly flights that don't make money."


United and Continental will report combined earnings for the fourth quarter and aren't expected to unveil many features that will shape customers' experience on the merged carrier until early next year. But parent United Continental has a leg up on competitors because it is sitting on $9.1 billion in cash, the largest reserves of any U.S. carrier.


Both airlines have catered to business travelers and are poised to reap additional rewards as they meld Continental's long reach into Europe and Latin America with United's sprawling Pacific network, analysts said.


That's provided Smisek can keep labor tensions in check and service at a high level until United and Continental gain a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline says it expects to reach that milestone by the end of 2011, about six months ahead of its original estimate.


While the airline waits to gain FAA approval to meld United and Continental's fleets, its planners are moving around the 547 regional jets flown by its contract partners, trying to best match aircraft to passenger demand on routes.


Seventy-seat jets operated by United Express, for example, are being moved into Continental's hubs at Cleveland, Newark and Houston, Smisek said. Continental previously was barred from operating such jets by a provision in its pilots contract.


The new United is also expanding its overseas reach through joint ventures with its Star Alliance partners, for which it has received antitrust immunity to coordinate schedules and divvy up revenues.


But such complicated arrangements aren't without hiccups, as United is learning.


United will have to pay a total of $100 million this quarter to Star Alliance partners Lufthansa and Air Canada, executives said. Continental and United formed the joint venture with the two overseas carriers in 2008, when Houston-based Continental decided to defect to Star from SkyTeam, its previous marketing alliance.


But the two new flights to Germany that Continental started as a result of the partnership proved far more profitable than Continental had anticipated over the first nine months of 2010, and now United will have to share a larger cut of that gain with its overseas partners, said Jim Compton, United's chief revenue officer.


In fact, Continental's partner revenues were up 83 percent as a result of the venture and its switch to Star late last year.


"It sounds like this is a case where Star, in all its forms, really does perform," said aviation consultant Robert Mann. "I can't recall anyone else being quite so transparent about their deals."
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Old 10-22-2010, 12:52 PM   #2
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Will see what ALPA's response to this is....
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Old 10-22-2010, 01:25 PM   #3
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Excerpt from the article:
Its capacity will increase just 1 percent to 2 percent in 2011, United CEO Jeff Smisek told analysts Thursday, reinforcing the tight curbs on growth and spending that have propelled the Chicago carrier and its peers to profitability.

Just to make sure that I am understanding this correctly.....

Smisek wants to Reinforce the tight curbs on growth & spending, but in the same breath on October 1st, he sees it "apropos" to be 'granted' a "healthy" compensation package (Along with Tilton, Rowe, and the rest of the minions) within the new company all the while balking at our JCBA thus far??

AH, silly me.....I see how this game is played.
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Old 10-22-2010, 01:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EWRflyr View Post
While the airline waits to gain FAA approval to meld United and Continental's fleets, its planners are moving around the 547 regional jets flown by its contract partners, trying to best match aircraft to passenger demand on routes.


Seventy-seat jets operated by United Express, for example, are being moved into Continental's hubs at Cleveland, Newark and Houston, Smisek said. Continental previously was barred from operating such jets by a provision in its pilots contract.
Previously barred? What happened with the CAL contract to allow this?

Oh wait, I think I know the answer
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:37 PM   #5
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A few thoughts.

Supposedly CAL maintains a higher fleet utilization than CAL. That, along with a few planes in the desert, might allow for minor growth going forward.

When management says 1-2% growth, you need to ask where is the growth coming from? With CAL and their 50 seat scope, the dog wagged the tail. Here at mother UAL, mainline can shrink, but there can be a net system growth via regional capacity growth. UAL might be at the block hour limit for scope, but they can replace almost every 50 seat lawn dart with a 70 seat, remain under the cap, and increase system wide asms.

Regarding the lawn darts, does anyone have an answer to HSLD's comment? Do they really think they can apply UAL's scope to the combined fleet?
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:04 AM   #6
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I just hope that we have a JCBA with scope addressed before the lawyers come in to "interpret" that.

Very good point though. I still say that the silence by the union speaks louder than words at this point. If ALPA knew that the announcements this week were going to outsource tons of flying...they would and should have taken a stand with at least a letter to the group....basically telling us that negotiations were going backwards....they were very vocal with the air linges move.

Outstanding question is: How much can they increase block hours and aircraft hours flown.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by SoCalGuy View Post
Excerpt from the article:
Its capacity will increase just 1 percent to 2 percent in 2011, United CEO Jeff Smisek told analysts Thursday, reinforcing the tight curbs on growth and spending that have propelled the Chicago carrier and its peers to profitability.

Just to make sure that I am understanding this correctly.....

Smisek wants to Reinforce the tight curbs on growth & spending, but in the same breath on October 1st, he sees it "apropos" to be 'granted' a "healthy" compensation package (Along with Tilton, Rowe, and the rest of the minions) within the new company all the while balking at our JCBA thus far??

AH, silly me.....I see how this game is played.
Yep, you are understanding it correctly. The "help" is never entitled to the same rewards or rules.
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Old 10-23-2010, 04:22 PM   #8
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Squeezing the sponge to extract every last drop of water will only go so far. Airlines like every other business must spend (albiet good purchases) its way to earning a profit year after year, regardless of the economic environment. Reinvestment is critical to long term success. 21st century on demand mediocre management will continue shuffling the deck but eventually will have to wager. The longer they wait the bigger the wager or face the likelihood of a greater risk for failure.

The other dominant global players offer a far more refined product. US airlines just can't compare, and those distant companies are selling tickets along side the homegrown players to your next door neighbor through the global travel agency called the internet. The number two guy isn't sitting still, neither are those holding positions below. Hopefully, Smisek isn't building his brand of a competitive product on shifting sand. In the end it's what you do with the size that matters most. Keep your same old drained and tired infrastructure and you are bound to repeat your past failures in the next economic downturn or oil spike. One need not wonder why UAL was still loosing more (not just money) than the competition even after the benefit of bankruptcy. Now that same mentality of choking to profitability.

Expenditure reflect directly in the quality of your product and "little" is too small to make it truly world class.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:56 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fritzthepilot View Post
...Regarding the lawn darts, does anyone have an answer to HSLD's comment? Do they really think they can apply UAL's scope to the combined fleet?

ALPA was/is confident that CAL's scope still applies to any flight with the CAL code on it.

The problem seems to be that they were so confident that they didn't prepare for the possibility that Smisek & pals would challenge our scope clause by placing CAL's code on these flights.

So now the word from the CAL MEC is, "we're researching any violations to scope".

Simply put, they can not operate any jets over 70 seats with the CAL code on it.

However, the date of commencement for these flights is months away so it could be that management is hedging their bets on the new JCBA being in force by then.
I am fairly certain that the scope proposal for the JCBA includes a 'sunset provision' that will allow the current UAL capacity purchase agreements to remain in force until they expire. (5+ years from now)

VoteNo and then a resounding "hell no!" to the MEC for any relief on CAL's scope restrictions while the second TA is being negotiated. (because tickets will already have been sold for these flight's I'm sure they'll be telling us we need to let it slide)
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:31 AM   #10
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However, the date of commencement for these flights is months away so it could be that management is hedging their bets on the new JCBA being in force by then.
I think your right about management hedging their bets. I'm guessing that the final compromise will be that we let them fly their 70 seat jets where they want until the contract for the connection carrier expires, then the combined UA pilots will fly those 70 seat routes as we get those airplanes, or newer ones, on our property.

We will see.
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