United Airlines is reversing a decision to close its 787 pilot base at Los Angeles International Airport. Just two months ago, the airline said the focus of its west coast 787 flights would shift north to San Francisco. The decision would have cost a lot of LAX-based jobs. But in response to a fast-evolving environment, United Airlines will now retain a 787 pilot base at LAX.
“In response to a changing competitive environment in LAX, our International Planning team has decided to resume international 787 services in September,” United Airlines told its pilots in a recent crew resources update.
“Against the broad backdrop of slumping travel demand, this is a small sprout of good news. This means the LAX 787 categories will not close in October as previously planned.”
A couple of months ago, @united announced, and I reported, that the Boeing 787 pilot base in Los Angeles would close, putting long-haul routes in jeopardy. But recently, @AmericanAir announced a big pullback to Asia from L.A. And look what's happening … pic.twitter.com/7BySspa0HX
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) July 10, 2020
United Airlines moves quickly to fill the gap left by AA at LAX
Pundits say United’s about-face reflects an American Airlines‘ decision to wind down Los Angeles as an international hub.
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Earlier this month, in what American Airlines called a “reset” of their international network, the airline dropped its flights to Beijing, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, São Paulo, and Shanghai (Pudong) from Los Angeles.
American’s service between Los Angeles and London will resume this winter. Flights to Sydney and Auckland will not operate until this time next year.
United Airlines has wasted no time reversing its decision to close its crew base in Los Angeles. United’s Vice President for International Network and Alliances, Patrick Quayle, said it was an “opportunity for United.”
But there will be few United 787 services from LAX
But United’s sharp-looking Boeing 787s won’t be clogging up the gates at LAX anytime soon. No United 787s are operating international flights out of Los Angeles at the moment. Flights to both Sydney and Tokyo (Haneda) should resume in September. However, given Australia has further tightened its border closures in recent days, a September start for the Sydney flight must surely now be in doubt.
When United Airlines decided to close its 787 pilot base at Los Angeles, there were broader ramifications. In conjunction with that decision, the airline also decided to close its 757 and 767 pilot bases at LAX. At the time, United said an estimated 80 captains and 150 first officers would be retrained to work other aircraft types and reassigned to new bases.
The fate of the other cabin crew and ground staff that serviced these planes was less certain. What is known is that United Airlines is looking to shed tens of thousands of employees as it right sizes itself.
A small win for jobs but the future remains uncertain
The decision to retain the 787 pilot base at Los Angeles is a small win. It will see some jobs retained, but only some.
“However, due to the initial low frequency of this service, this will not generate much staffing activity. We initially forecast the canceled 20 captain and 35 first officer displacement awards out of LAX 787, but will now cancel an additional five captain and 15 first officer displacements out of LAX 787,” said United in its communique to pilots.
Despite this, some good news is better than no good news. The reversal also indicates the willingness and ability of United Airlines to adapt fast and seize opportunities as they arise. That can only bode well for the mega carrier as it moves forward.