United makes changes to limit unplanned European fuel stops

 United will start flying 767s some some key routes to Europe. Photo: Eric Prado/Flickr (Creative Commons) 

United will start flying 767s some some key routes to Europe. Photo: Eric Prado/Flickr (Creative Commons) 

In effort to curb unplanned fuel stops, a hassle for customers, United Airlines will switch from Boeing 757s to Boeing 767s on four key European routes from Newark.

United will now fly twin-aisle 767s year-round from Newark to Madrid, Berlin, Hamburg and Barcelona. The new policy starts on Oct. 25.  United had already announced plans to switch Barcelona and Berlin to 767s, but only for the summer season.

"The upgauge to 767s will reduce fall and winter fuel stops on westbound flights due to high winds and improve our reliability on these routes," United said in a note to employees.

The fuel stops have been a problem. During the winter, the 757s barely have the range to fly from Europe to the East Coast. London generally does OK, because it is closer, but Continental Europe is a challenge. The fuel stops can be costly for the airline, as many passengers miss connections and United must rebook them. Passengers hate the stops in Canada and Maine, which can add an hour or two to flight time.

On March 29, a United tipster tells me, these 757 flights made fuel stops from Europe.

Flight NumberOriginDestinationStop
123LondonWashington DullesBangor, Maine
75HamburgNewarkBangor, Maine
121BarcelonaNewarkPortland, Maine
125BerlinNewarkGoose Bay, Canada
2089OsloNewarkBangor, Maine
101ManchesterWashington DullesGoose Bay, Canada
55ParisNewarkGandor, Canada

United has more widebodies than it did several years ago. Since 2012, United has added 17 Boeing 787s, with as many as 48 still to come. That has freed up 767s for these routes.

United will shift the 757s to domestic flights "We are still determining specific routes for the 757s we’re replacing as part of a number of changes in our flying," United told employees.

You'll see the new 767s loaded into United's schedule on Saturday, April 18.