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United Airlines will study Delta’s refinery bid

The CEO of United Airlines’ parent company says he will watch to see if Delta benefits from buying an oil refinery and could imitate its rival.

“If it works for Delta it can work for us, and it’s completely reproducible,” United Continental Holdings Inc. CEO Jeff Smisek said Friday on CNBC.

Delta Air Lines Inc. took a novel approach to dealing with the high cost of jet fuel — it bought an idled ConocoPhillips refinery near Philadelphia in June. Delta spent $11.8 billion on fuel in 2011 and hopes to cut its fuel bill by $300 million per year.

United is taking a more conventional airline approach to saving fuel. It just took delivery of its first Boeing 787, a long-haul jet made largely of composite materials that is designed to be lighter and more fuel-efficient than the planes it will replace. It’s the first U.S. airline to get the 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner.

United will show off the new plane around the United States before using it mostly on long international routes.

Shares of United Continental rose 3 cents to $19.39 in afternoon trading. Its shares are down 25 percent since hitting a 52-week high of $25.84 in early February. That traded as low as $15.51 last November.

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