Flying Pencil: Inside United’s Boeing 757-300 Operations

United Airlines has a small fleet of 21 Boeing 757-300s, all inherited from Continental. It is one of just five carriers to use the variant, and it has more than any other – both in total and in active service. Often used on leisure and hub-to-hub routes, we see that Chicago O’Hare is the best airport to see them and Denver-Houston the best route to fly them.

Flying Pencil: Inside United’s Boeing 757-300 Operations
United Airlines is the world’s largest user of the Boeing 757-300. Photo: Eric Salard via Wikimedia.

All but three of its United’s Boeing 757-300s are presently being used (18). Perhaps surprisingly, the airline now has almost as many operational 757-200s (21) as the larger variant, according to ch-aviation.com. Or maybe it isn’t surprising, given how United has progressively retired the 752s, as vividly illustrated in the following figure, while the use of the 753 has been remarkably steady.

United’s ‘middle-of-the-market’ narrowbody 757-300s are ordinarily used on relatively short and high-density routes. These are typically hub-to-hub or leisure-focused – more or less the same broad role for many of the USA’s domestic widebody services.

Flying Pencil: Inside United’s Boeing 757-300 Operations
United first operated the B757-300 in 2012. Source of data: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

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Unlikely to be retired soon?

United’s 753s were reconfigured in 2018 to improve the hard product and increase seating density to 234 seats. More seats have helped to increase revenue per flight but also to reduce the cost per seat-mile. It has become an even more competitive machine.

As such, it’s unlikely that they’ll be retired soon. However, the same was expected of Delta’s B777s, which were retrofitted with Delta One, and also American and its A330-200s which were reconfigured. Yet, both were removed as the pandemic struck. Last month, Simple Flying looked at the important role of the A330 for American.

At ‘only’ 18.9 years, United’s 757-300s are not especially old, although they’re slightly more mature than the carrier’s average (16.5 years) due to so many new aircraft being introduced. When retirement does come, which is likely to be a few years away, the Boeing 737 MAX 10 will most likely replace them. Where is Southwest flying its MAX 8s next month?

Flying Pencil: Inside United’s Boeing 757-300 Operations
The 753 often visits Los Angeles, although Chicago is the best place to see them. Photo: Getty Images.

Chicago is the best place to see United’s 753s

United has around 11,800 round-trip flights planned by the 753 this year, examining data provided by the carrier to OAG reveals. Chicago O’Hare sees the lion’s share of them (about 5,400 flights), followed closely behind by Denver (about 5,000).

In contrast, San Francisco always used to be important for type. In 2019, the airport saw nearly four in ten 753 flights – second only to Chicago. However, in 2021, San Francisco has few services by them, with the airport the worst hit in the country by coronavirus.

Flying Pencil: Inside United’s Boeing 757-300 Operations
These 10 routes see about nine in ten of 753 flights this year. Image: GCMap.

And Denver-Houston is the route to fly them

The 757-300 is scheduled to operate 55 routes this year, all domestic, including a good number of one-offs. The leading 10 routes, shown below, have almost nine in ten 753 flights, with Denver-Houston very much number-one. Looking back to 2019, this route wasn’t even in the top-10 list. How things change.

  1. Denver to Houston Intercontinental
  2. Chicago O’Hare-Denver
  3. Chicago O’Hare-Los Angeles
  4. Honolulu-Los Angeles
  5. Chicago O’Hare-Orlando
  6. Orlando-Washington Dulles
  7. Chicago O’Hare-Houston Intercontinental
  8. Denver-Los Angeles
  9. Denver-Orlando
  10. Chicago O’Hare-San Francisco

The author remembers flying a Condor B757-300 from Larnaca to Düsseldorf a few years ago. Have you flown this 757 variant? If so, what are your memories of it? Let us know by commenting.

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