Inside United’s Boeing 757-200 Operations

United has operated 139 Boeing B757-200s in all, with its first (N501UA) delivered exactly 32 years ago the day this article is written: August 24th, 1989. The type, which the A321neo and larger MAX variants will replace, has been on a downward spiral for years. Next month, it has just 1.2% of United’s total flights across 33 routes.

United Airlines (Her Art Here-California Livery) Boeing 757-224 N14106 (2) (1)
Looking resplendent is this B757-200, N14106, delivered to Continental in September 1994 and still in active use by United. On August 24th, it flew Keflavik-Newark and will operate Newark-Anchorage-Newark later today. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

United’s B757-200s

According to ch-aviation.com, United’s remaining B757-200s – all of which were previously used by Continental – have an average age of 25 years. They all have winglets and use the IATA code of 75W.

This age makes the 75W the second oldest type in United’s fleet, with its B767-300ERs just six months older (on average). And the 75W is about six years younger than the middle-of-the-market B757-300, also inherited from Continental.

United Boeing 757
The B757-200 is all about Newark, with 75% of the type’s flights in September. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

The writing has been on the wall for years

Before the pandemic, United retrofitted its 752s with new economy seats and a ‘refreshed’ business offering. They all have 16 (older) Polaris seats, 42-45 economic plus seats, and 108-118 seats in economy. With meager ownership costs, the carrier saw value retaining the type for longer and thinner routes, at least until A321LRs and Boeing 737 MAX 10s arrive.

Despite this investment, it is hardly surprising that the end is approaching for its 752s. Use has been declining almost yearly, although the small uptick in 2018 and 2019 (versus 2017/2016) following the retrofit is indicated in the figure below. But then COVID happened. In 2021, the 75W has approximately 16,600 flights or 1.2% of United’s total, down from 2.4% in 2019 and 8.2% in 2004.

United's use of the 757-200
2024 is the tentative date for the type’s retirement as A321neos/XLRs and Boeing 737 MAX 10s take over. Source of data in the figure: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

The B757-200 has fewer flights than the -300

Looking at next month, OAG data indicates that the B757-200 has fewer United flights than the higher-density big brother, the -300, at approximately 1,511 against 1,392. This means that the smaller sibling has around 45 round-trips each day – not many.

United's B757-200 routes in September 2021
Just 33 routes are scheduled to see the B757-200, with the top-10 routes having virtually eight in ten of the total flights. Only two routes are international: Chicago and Newark to Keflavik, Iceland. Image: GCMap.

Newark to Orlando is #1

The 75W revolves around Newark, with the airport having almost three-quarters of all of the type’s flights in September. No other hub comes close. We showed that Newark, increasingly more of a point-to-point airport for United, has the highest number of seats per flight of any of the airline’s top-six airports.

United_Airlines_Boeing_757-224_N57111@ZRH16.04.2011_595dy_5629522338
The 75W’s average sector length in September is 1,829 miles. Newark-Anchorage is the longest route (3,370 miles), and Newark-Boston is the shortest (200 miles). The latter has only three flights on the 11th, 15th, and 25th. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia.

The aircraft helps with Newark’s seats per flight, with the airport featuring five times in the airline’s top-10 routes B757-200 routes. These include to Orlando, by far number-one, with up to five outbound departures a day (e.g., on September 5th).

  1. Newark-Orlando
  2. Newark-Los Angeles
  3. Denver-Newark
  4. San Francisco-Kahului
  5. Newark-Chicago O’Hare
  6. Newark-Keflavik
  7. Newark-San Francisco
  8. Chicago O’Hare-Keflavik
  9. Los Angeles-Lihue
  10. Chicago O’Hare-Los Angeles

What memories do you have of flying the B757-200? Let us know in the comments.

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