New carpeting, new leather seating, new video monitors and revamped lavatories are part of United Airlines’ efforts to make over its fleet, including 11 aircrafts for its Guam hub.
Charles Duncan, senior vice president of technical operations, said yesterday between $1 million and $2 million was spent per aircraft for the renovations.
The investment underscores United’s commitment to Guam, Duncan said.
According to Sam Shinohara, managing director operations Guam and Micronesia, seven Boeing 737-800s and four 737-700s are now being used for Guam services. The airplanes are less than 10 years old and previously served domestic flights in the U.S. mainland, Shinohara said. The planes that had been used before were brought in about 15 years ago, Duncan said.
“We were not able, for a lot of reasons, to make investments in those aircrafts because we were just constantly flying them,” Duncan said. “We really wanted to bring the best product that we have in the mainland US here into Guam and our customers here.”
The improvements to the fleet are part of a company-wide renovation and the makeovers in Guam started at about summertime, according to Shinohara.
Boeing’s 737-800s also have split scimitar winglets, which allow planes to save on fuel and fly further up to 7 percent, compared to flying without them, according to Duncan. It is during longer flights when significant fuel savings are realized due to the split scimitar winglets, according to Duncan. United first announced the scimitar winglet on one of the aircrafts taking off out of Houston two years ago.
Inside the improved Guam fleet, United decided on all-leather seats for easier clean-up. Duncan said at times spills on the old cloth seats would delay a flight because the seat was soaked. For passengers seated in economy-plus, business or first class, there are A/C power plugs in the rows for customers to charge their electronics. New overhead bins and redesigned lavatory are also features United showcased during a tour of the aircraft yesterday.
Though the new fleet has WiFi capabilities, Duncan said United is not yet offering onboard WiFi services.
Duncan highlighted that the airline will continue to offer a stretcher that is readily available for passengers flying with medical needs, a component that Shinohara was quick to point out no other airline in Guam offers.
United also made investments into ensuring its 42,000-square-foot hangar on island is equipped to maintain and repair the aircrafts in Guam, considering the harsh environmental conditions and the hangar’s need to be self-sustaining.
Duncan said, moving forward, the airline hopes to continue refreshing the airplanes in Guam more frequently.
United has just over 900 employees in Guam and Duncan said there are no plans for taking on more employees now. “There’s a lot of potential here for Guam to be a base to support our operations in Japan and China and the rest of Asia and as we go forward,” Duncan said. “As we grow in the region, Guam’s role to support will grow and our need for people as well as growth with the overall economy.”
Low-cost airline carrier Cebu Pacific will soon be moving in on United’s profitable Manila-Guam service when they launch service next month.
Duncan said the competition is welcome. “I believe competition is good and makes us all better,” he said. “We’ll compete with anybody. We know how to compete.”