United is bringing six hubs to the marriage: Chicago, Denver, Washington Dulles, San Francisco, Los Angeles International and Tokyo Narita. Continental has four: Houston, Newark, Cleveland and Guam. There's been concern that Cleveland will shrink or be eliminated. United and Continental this week agreed to continue operating a Cleveland hub that is at least 90% of the current hub's size for the next two years, and to pay Cleveland a $20 million penalty if it closes the hub within five years. (OH PLEASE DONT CLOSE, OH PLEASE DONT CLOSE... THIS IS MY HOME TOWN!!!)
This is an area the new airline will have to work out. Both carriers currently fly Boeing aircraft on international routes. But Continental sticks with Boeing 737s and 757s on its domestic routes, while United flies a mix of Boeing 757s and Airbus A320s. Flying both 737s and A320s on similar domestic routes would require maintaining two sets of pilots, maintenance programs, spare parts and training programs.
And 737s and A320s don't have the same number of seats. United's fleet of 747s and 767s are aging and will need to be replaced soon. Continental and United have orders for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but United also has placed orders for the 787's competitor, the Airbus A350.
On top of resolving the compatibility issue, the new United likely will need more wide-body jets to avoid getting left behind in the international travel arena.
Could you imagine combining fleets in this game?