Houston, 28 September (Argus) — United Airlines has not ruled out purchasing its own oil refinery, chief executive Jeff Smisek said as competitor Delta Air Lines ramped up production at its own US east coast facility.
Smisek said the US air carrier could consider operating a refinery depending on Delta's experience at its 185,000 b/d refinery in Trainer, Pennsylvania, it purchased in June through subsidiary Monroe Energy. Delta chief executive Richard Anderson said production at that refinery restarted earlier this week.
The refining venture is one of the most aggressive responses to rising jet fuel costs that have strained US airlines in recent years.
“We have a front row seat and free popcorn and get to watch Delta,” Smisek said. “If it works for Delta, it can work for us – and is completely reproducible – but we'll watch and see what they do.”
Even so, United currently appears to be focused on more traditional fuel management techniques. The carrier was showing off its new 787 Dreamliner jet, with improved fuel burn, in an interview with CNBC when Smisek commented on the refinery option.
“The best hedge for us is a modern and fuel-efficient fleet, so we're investing in that,” he said.
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