Evidently United feels fuel price growth can be absorbed with a steady ticket price adjustment, with a little noticed increase of ticket prices stretched over the next few years. Additionally, Boeing is making an offer United can't refuse with its 777-300 ER class aircraft. It says "move now" with the deal. That is what Boeing hopes for when filling up the 777 line with new orders, going onto the 2016 production schedules. Others could follow that plan of switching a handful of 787 on order with 777-300 ER's. Its a way to increase capacity without penalties to an airline's capital outlay.
American Airline is another hedger with the 787 and it is going to "put-off" 5-787 deliveries from its books as it trims its future fleet for reasons of market analysis. It finds a glut of seats forming in the market place without airline growth keeping up. The well intended original order from American Airline is adjusting timing into its future fleet size, according to its market projections. This is the type of drop in orders that are often found on Boeing.com order side with little or no explanation for the reader. In this case billions of dollars are adjusted by fleet timing of delivery.
In fact the airlines are loving the 787 for what it does for its business plans. Trimming is done as a hedge against volatility in the travel market place. A glut of available tickets/seats signals that volatility will reign over the next few years. Airline seat efficiency is trending in downward a tick slightly, or is stable with no growth. As an example, a scheduled flight is rated by the number of seats sold each flight. The airline factors that statistic as a percentage such as an average of 83% Load Factor. Formulate the Load Factor into ticket revenue and an Airline can determine if it is making money each time a route is run. In this same example, the Load Factor drops to 80%, then that route maybe in peril of not making a profit. American Airlines is looking not at its own load factor in a vacuum, but it is looking at the world's Load Factor as a whole, and how it will compete. American is foregoing five Dreamliner for later, in a strategy for keeping its routes at optimum profitability and saving capital in reserve. It just so happens to be announced in tandem with United's order switch from 10-787 to 10-777's.
What is next in play is fifteen 787 slots are now open for a lucky airline in waiting? I would not be surprised to see a new 787 order announced soon, as Boeing was telling its potential customers, "we will have an opening immediately." Today's news was not by accident, being reported in tandem. Something else is lurking in the news, which I will be anxious to see. Probably, another order for 20 Dreamliner is my estimation. Otherwise Boeing wouldn't have encourage so strongly to sell the 777-300-ER's to United at those prices, and filling some 2016 production time slots.
Puget Sound Business Journal