United Delays Premium Cabin Refurbishment Again

Uh oh. It looks like United has decided to delay its refurbishment of the premium cabins on the 777 once again. Now they won’t even start until February 2010, so the problem of dramatically different premium cabin experiences is bound to continue for quite some time.

The 767s are complete, and the 747s are almost there. They say 18 out of 24 aircraft are done with the full 747 fleet being finished by October this year. But those 777s, well, they’ll continue to limp along with the old product. Here’s how things will look when the 747s are done in a couple months.

United 777 Premium Cabin Delays

So what’s the excuse this time? Money. In an internal memo, they blame two things, but I’m not buying the first.

While our International Premium Travel Experience (IPTE) aircraft continue to double our customer satisfaction scores, and the modifications continue to progress well, the B777 program is more complex than the B767 and B747 programs, given the three different B777 sub-fleets. In addition,
we are facing a challenging year due to the global recession, changing market demand and increasing fuel prices.

Uh huh. This thing has been delayed so many times that I find it hard to believe that the complexity is still causing the problem here. Instead, I’ll put my bet on the little blurb that followed:

The decision to postpone the start of the work also allows us to better control our costs in 2009, helping us maintain a stronger cash flow through the historical trough period of the fourth quarter.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! They say you have to spend money to make money, but how does that work when you don’t have money to spend? Sadly, the 777s make up a bit more than half the fleet, so the cost savings here are likely to turn into revenue pain as people look toward other airlines with better options.

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