Les 747 actuels d'UAL ne seraient pas remplacés par des 748 ou A 380, confirmation de J.Leahy pour Airbus.
Sur l'analyse du Chicago Tribune, les choix ( très conditionnel ) se porterait sur des bimoteurs.
By Julie Johnsson | Tribune reporter June 6, 2009
Although it is one of the largest jumbo-jet operators in the world, United Airlines isn't looking to replace its Boeing 747s with new supersize aircraft that Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS are desperate to sell.
Chicago-based United is mapping out its aircraft needs for the next 25 years, hoping to take advantage of a swift and sudden downturn in global air travel that has left the planemakers scrambling to find takers for wide-body jets slated to roll out of factories over the next two years.
However, analysts question how United will finance the new planes at a time when oil prices are rising, ticket sales are sluggish because of a global recession, and airlines are striving to raise capital and preserve their precious cash reserves.
As it mulls an order for as many as 150 jets, United is looking to smaller, twin-engine planes to handle the long-range flying done by its fleet of 26 Boeing 747-400 planes, say people familiar with its plans. The jumbos seat about 350 people and are powered by four engines.
Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told the Tribune on Friday that United is not looking to buy Airbus' double-decker A380 planes, which seat more than 450 passengers.
"We have been talking with them for quite some time. But the [request for proposal] is very recent. Unfortunately (for both companies) the A380 is not (currently) included," Leahy said via e-mail, implying that Airbus may attempt to sway United.
Airbus has yet to land a North American customer for the A380 and recently said it would slow production of the planes during 2009 and 2010 as such customers as Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd. defer deliveries.
Chicago-based Boeing has only one airline customer for the passenger version of the 747-8, a
stretched model of the jumbo that seats about 460 and borrows some of the design innovations of its 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has absorbed nearly $1 billion in charges as a result of design problems and delays with the stretched 747, which is running months behind schedule.
While both planemakers likely would offer deep discounts to nab a United order for their jumbo jets, the carrier instead is eyeing smaller aircraft like the Boeing 777-300ER. It seats about 365 people but flies on two engines, offering greater fuel efficiency than the larger planes.
But as United plans an aircraft order that could top $10 billion, analysts and financiers worry about how the airline will handle the additional debt. United held $2.5 billion in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, which would cover less than two months of its operating expenses.
Investment bank JPMorgan downgraded United on Friday, warning that the airline's balance sheet was fragile and that it could violate debt covenants later this year if oil continues to rise.
"While we're all for buying assets at the bottom of a cycle, we are concerned about United's apparent about-face as it relates to capital discipline," wrote analyst Jamie Baker.
United Chief Executive Glenn Tilton told employees in an e-mail message Thursday that the carrier won't place an order that jeopardizes its finances.
"In addition to earning a return, any aircraft order must be financed in a way that strengthens our balance sheet over the long term and does not impact our cash position," Tilton said.