Wow, when I said last night that we should be watching UA in the next few days, I didn’t think it would be coming this quickly and with such magnitude. The biggest news seems to be that Ted will be going *poof*, something I have mixed feelings about, believe it or not. As a true Ted warrior, most would think I hate Ted, but I really don’t. I almost always get an empty middle seat in my exit row seat, and I love BPM, Channel 3 on the audio selection, which can’t be found on mainline. If they had BPM on mainline flights I would give up Ted in a heartbeat, but I usually listen to BPM from boarding till touchdown on Ted, so I would miss it. Also, most importantly that’s assuming that we would actually get mainline. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stick RJ’s to TPA instead, which would royally suck.
As the WSJ reports:
United is expected to rid itself of its “Ted” sub-branded service that serves domestic leisure destinations with 56 all-coach A320 aircraft. The company created Ted during its bankruptcy case, which ran from late 2002 to early 2006, as a way of reducing costs on its most competitive domestic routes by cramming more seats on the planes by doing away with first-class cabins.
The airline will put first-class cabins back on some of those planes, bowing to pressure from its premium passengers.
And as Yahoo reports:
As part of these changes, United is eliminating its Ted product, reconfiguring that fleet’s 56 A320s to include United First class seats. The reconfiguration of the Ted aircraft will begin in spring 2009 and be completed by year-end 2009.
So while it’s not instant, it’ll be happening. What confuses me a bit about the WSJ article is that it says UA will be putting “first-class cabins back on some of those planes.” I’ll assume they meant all, because if not I’m totally confused, the last thing UA needs is another sub-fleet.
I can only imagine what a mess UA will be between the beginning of the reconfiguration process and the end, not to mention the mass confusion. Some planes painted in Ted will have F, while others won’t. I remember when DL got rid of Song and what a mess that was, so let’s hope it’s a bit faster for UA.
I’m guessing the main reason that management finally chose to make this change with Ted is because Ted requires a fourth FA compared to the mainline A320’s, since Ted has 156 seats, and those last six seats require an FA (50:1 passenger:crew ratio per FAA regs). Add that to all the business UA has lost over the years due to Ted and the fact that this trims out capacity, and I think it was a wise move. Actually, it was probably the only possible move.
In other news, we have some concrete numbers about fleet cutbacks– UA is getting rid of 94 737’s and six 747’s, so that’s a total of 100 planes. In addition, UA is reducing staffing on many flights, including the reduction to four FA’s on non-transcon 757 flights, and they’re now cutting one FA from widebody flights.
So it looks like we’ll see a lot of people being laid off in the near future, which sucks. I have so many friends at UA, fortunately many of which are pretty “safe,” at least based on seniority. Still, this means a lot of FA’s and pilots will be stuck flying smaller planes on less desirable routes than before, possibly even being downgraded from captain to first officer. This just isn’t fun stuff.
Lastly, Bill Norman and Sean Donahue are leaving UA, two VP’s I had a lot of respect for. I had the opportunity to meet Bill Norman at the maintenance tour at SFO last fall, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for Sean Donahue, despite the fact that he was the brain behind Ted, apparently.
So as much as there’s good news, bad news, and mediocre news, what am I most happy about? Well, it seems like UA’s upper management has finally decided that it’s time to run an airline! All along they’ve been playing merger games and really had no plan for UA as a standalone airline it seems, but finally that has changed. As much as cutbacks suck, I’m convinced this is the best for UA in the long run. These are tough times for the industry, and tough times call for desperate measures.
I’m sure over the next few days we’ll see some more numbers, but I think I’ve had my daily dose of industry cutbacks. Kudos to management for having a plan.