United makes largest aircraft order in past decade

270 new mainline narrow-body jets ordered with Boeing and Airbus

United Airlines has placed the biggest aircraft order by an individual carrier in the last decade – a whopping 270 new Boeing and Airbus planes.

Under the “United Next” plan, United has ordered a fresh batch of 50 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and 150 737 MAX 10s, along with 70 Airbus A321neos.

The announcement came on the same day United officially debuted its first 737 MAX 8 to the public at the airline’s New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport. That variant goes into service next month.

Just weeks ago, United revealed its intention to re-enter the supersonic era of air travel, ordering up to 50 Overture aircraft from Boom Supersonic.

When combined with the current order book, United expects to introduce more than 500 new, narrow-body aircraft: 40 in 2022, 138 in 2023 and as many as 350 in 2024 and beyond. By 2023, United’s fleet will, on average, add about one new narrow-body aircraft every three days.

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‘United Next’ will create a “transformational effect on the customer experience”, the airline said, with the order likely to boost UA’s total number of available seats per domestic flight by nearly 30%, while reducing carbon emissions per seat and creating tens of thousands of new jobs by 2026.

Each aircraft in the new order will provide seat-back entertainment in every seat, larger overhead bins and the industry’s fastest in-flight WiFi available, along with LED lighting.

United’s inflight entertainment – 13-inch high-definition (HD) screens in every first class seat and 10-inch HD screens in every United Economy seat on the 737 MAX – includes free access to more than 2,800 selections including movies, TV shows and international selections, as well as audio playlists, podcasts and games. Plus, every seat on these aircrafts have access to electrical power and USB charge ports.

UA expects to fly the first 737 MAX 8 with this new signature interior in coming months and to begin flying the 737 MAX 10 and the Airbus A321neo in early 2023.

United Airlines A321neo render

The Star Alliance member carrier also intends to upgrade 100% of its mainline, narrow-body fleet to these standards by 2025. In the process, it will replace around 200 older, smaller single-class regional jets.

“Our United Next vision will revolutionise the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel,” said United CEO Scott Kirby.

“By adding and upgrading this many aircraft so quickly with our new signature interiors, we’ll combine friendly, helpful service with the best experience in the sky, all across our premier global network.

“At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader US economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending and commerce.”

United expects to create approximately 25,000 jobs at the airline as a result of adding these new aircraft. The airline also expects to drive more than US$30 billion in traveller spending when flying United and contribute an estimated US$50 billion annually towards the US economy by 2026.

United’s 737 MAX 8 has 16 United First seats and 54 Economy Plus seats. The 737 MAX 10 makes up the majority of United’s new order and will include 20 United First seats and 64 Economy Plus seats. The new A321neo aircraft are expected to have a United First and Economy Plus seat count similar to that of the 737 MAX 10.

“We’ll deliver a better, more consistent experience, with more features for more customers, faster than ever,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s EVP and Chief Commercial Officer.

Lead image: United livery on a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

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