Monday, July 24, 2017

United Airlines May Be Deal Making Its A350's Away

After pondering the United Airlines dilemma of what to do with its 25 A350-900's converted to A350-1000 and another 10 A350-1000 it had ordered, an idea came forward. The total book value of the two orders equals $12.6 billion at list prices. The total order contracts are estimated for about $6.3 (50% of list) billion for which United is on the hook for and it would like to move forward with another plan. Its 747-400's are in need of retirement and United is back filling the jumbo with 777-300ER's. So far the tally is eighteen 777-300-ER purchased to four A350-1000's delayed, moving those back to a later date for delivery.

The smoke signal is plain. United  has other plans for its planes. How can United get out from under a long standing order without financial mishap?

  • Trade out $12.6 billion in orders to other airlines.
  • The trade out may amount to $6.3 billion in actual United contractual book orders(based on 50% of list price).
  • Seek out A350 customers who need an Airbus build position
  • Seek out Airbus customers who would agree in a three way deal with Airbus for other types.

The above short list can get more innovative as time marches on. United has signaled a bailout on its Airbus wide body orders with the four delayed A-350's and more 777's taken into United's fleet. The game is afoot with its unwilling Airbus partner, but having some victory is better than no victory for Airbus.

The log jam starts with slow A-350 sales in the market place, and then a slow production start as compare with Boeing's own problematic 787 start-up. United may have to rely upon Airbus customers trading for a mix of single aisle A320-321's, A-330's and A-350's which takes time to arrange equaling about $6 billion in trade on United's books. That number represents a lot of single aisle, like a 117 of the A-320's ordered by an Airbus customer at list price. United must find both A-320 and A-350 customers to get out of order hell while convincing a not so happy Airbus to go along with this type of suggestion. It is not known at this time what it would cost United Airlines just to burn its order up it has from Airbus. 

There lies the United conundrum, whether to trade away orders with others in a three way deal with Airbus or just pay Airbus some agreed upon amount for dropping the Airbus order.

Another United option is sale and leaseback for its 35 A-350 on order and then cut away leases one by one as its 747 fleet ages out. This would be over a decade worth of selling to lessors and leasing back its A-350's over time. United must have a fleet plan for such a leaseback strategy. It would eventually cause a Boeing back-up on 777 delivery and handcuff United options into an Airbus wide body fleet. 

A permanent solution is selling its A-350 order to other Airbus customers at United contract price with Airbus. This last option is what United Airlines could be doing, and it maybe why they are incrementally pushing back delivery times like its first four A-350's it had ordered.