United 747s to return to Chicago in 2014

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United Airlines has reversed its plan to concentrate its Boeing 747-400 fleet at San Francisco International with the aircraft returning to its Chicago O'Hare hub in March 2014.

Citing "restored" reliability, the Chicago-based Star Alliance member will reintroduce the jumbo jet on flights between O'Hare and both Shanghai Pudong and Tokyo Narita from 30 March 2014, and on flights to Frankfurt from 8 April 2014.

"We carefully selected these routes to generate the best performance from both a profitability and a reliability perspective," says Andrew Buchanan, international planning managing director at United, in an employee newsletter on 15 August. "Our Tech Ops team did an outstanding job bringing this fleet back into an on-going maintenance mode and are making the necessary investments to operate the aircraft reliably out of Chicago."

He adds: "We feel confident about moving some of them around the system carefully and selectively."

The 747s will continue to rotate through San Francisco for maintenance, with flights between the California city and Frankfurt, Shanghai and Tokyo also operated by the aircraft.

United announced that it would concentrate its 747 fleet at San Francisco from this past March in order to reduce maintenance issues and improving reliability in December 2012.

The carrier has also made a number of other aircraft changes in its Pacific flying. It will downgauge its San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, flights to Boeing 777-200s from 747s on 1 April 2014, and its San Francisco-Osaka Kansai route to a Boeing 787-8 from a 747 on 8 April 2014.

"The new schedule reflects our on-going work to put the right aircraft in the right markets to earn a sufficient return," says United in the newsletter.

Osaka will be the airline's first 787 service from its San Francisco hub.

United saw passenger unit revenue fall 3.5% in its Pacific operations during the first quarter. It attributed the decrease to depreciation of the Japanese yen and yield pressure in Australia - both of which could have impacted the downgauging decisions for the Melbourne, Osaka and Tokyo routes.