United Airlines has announced a monumental order for a combined total of 270 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, in a deal worth upwards of $15 billion at list prices based on estimates by Ascend by Cirium.
Boeing scored a significant portion of the order, inking a deal for 150 737 MAX 10s and 50 737 MAX 8s, boosting the manufacturers recovery from the MAX crisis. United now has a total commitment of 380 737 MAX aircraft.
Airbus on the other hand, roped in an order for 70 A321neos; illustrating the models lead over Boeing in the long-range, single aisle segment. It especially compliments the airline’s order for 50 A321XLR models in December 2019, taking the total figure of A321neo models on order to 120.
“No other aircraft can do what the A321neo can do and the Airbus team is most gratified by United’s strong affirmation of its premium status. The A321neo will complement United’s future A321XLR aircraft, together creating a privileged segment on its own.”Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International.
“As we look forward to the recovery ahead, we are honoured that United has once again chosen the 737 family’s performance, efficiency and flexibility to power their growing network. The Boeing team is excited to be building hundreds of these new jets for United and delivering on a landmark agreement that solidifies our future together for the next decades.”Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
By placing an order for the larger models United gains the ability to expand their capacity at their Newark, New Jersey and San Francisco hubs, where it is often tight with slots.
United aims to use the new aircraft to quickly phase out older aircraft types, including Boeing 757-200s, Airbus A319s and A320s. United on Monday begun taking delivery of the 737 MAX 8, with the MAX 10 and A321neo scheduled to arrive from 2023 onwards.
In total, United is set to add 500 planes to their fleet as part of a total renewal and refresher scheme. Of the 500, 300 will be to replace older aircraft and 200 will be to expand the fleet.
Enhanced Passenger Experience
The move to a more premium configurated single-aisle cabin comes as United seeks to capture much of the travel resurgence from American Airlines and Delta, since passengers are constantly on the lookout for comforts similar to those on long-haul aircraft. Furthermore, the capabilities of the 737 MAX and A321neo will likely see United operating lengthier international flights, on thinner routes, where passenger comfort is a must if it means securing a positive reputation.
This order will also significantly boost United’s total number of mainline daily departures; along with greater seat availability across the airline’s North American network as well as the number of premium seats, both United First and Economy Plus. Specifically, United expects they will have on average 53 premium seats per North American departure by 2026, an increase of about 75% over 2019, more than any competitor in North America.
“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.”United CEO, Scott Kirby
United states that each of the aircraft will include high-definition seat-back screens, power outlets for every seat, high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity and room for everyone’s carry on luggage thanks to the larger overhead lockers. On top of this, the overall welcome experience and inflight adventure will be strengthened by the use of LED mood lighting and a brighter, more open feeling, cabin layout.
Existing aircraft within the United fleet, that will be working among the new jets, will receive cabin upgrades to the new Signature product; allowing passengers to seamlessly transition through United’s network, without being thrown around in various cabin styles and conditions.
COVID-19 Recovery and Economic Impact
Despite no clear end to COVID-19 for now, passenger air travel in the United States has steadily risen over the last few months. More aircraft are being brought out of storage and planes are starting to be delivered again to meet the demand.
By placing an order for such a significant amount of planes, United Airlines is not only supporting air travel recovery but also the economy and social position of the USA.
The United States government handed United $10.5 billion to help during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with United allocating a large portion of this to the creation and maintenance of jobs.
For the 12,000 United Airlines pilots, and upcoming additional 10,000 expected to join by the end of the decade, the order is a light at the end of a long tunnel, as we push for COVID-19 recovery within aviation.
“This is exactly what we planned for when we reached our industry-leading pandemic recovery agreement last year and kept United pilots on the property, trained and ready to take advantage of the rapid recovery in passenger demand. With the strength of our network, fleet, and pilot compensation, we are sure United will remain the destination of choice for the most highly qualified airline pilots.”United ALPA Chair Capt. Todd Insler
It’s anticipated that the order will create 25,000 well-paying, unionized, jobs by 2026, broken down into the following locations:
- Newark / EWR: up to 5,000 jobs
- San Francisco / SFO: up to 4,000 jobs
- Washington, D.C. / IAD: up to 3,000 jobs
- Chicago / ORD: up to 3,000 jobs
- Houston / IAH: up to 3,000 jobs
- Denver / DEN: up to 3,000 jobs
- Los Angeles / LAX: up to 1,400 jobs
Jobs that will be available to support the recovery include, pilots, flight attendants, technicians, dispatchers, ramp agents and everything in between. All of the jobs mentioned will be supported by their own union.
A study by the Federal Aviation Administration, and data from United’s internal estimates, finds that the addition of the 270 new aircraft will drive traveller spending up by $30 billion and contribute an estimated $50 billion to the US economy by 2026.
Outside of United, the deal offers Boeing a significant step-up; after receiving degrading setbacks across multiple of their commercial, defence and space programs, as well as the COVID-19 aircraft downturn. Only recently has the 737 MAX been unbanned, following a near two year grounding period after two crashes left 346 dead; furthermore, the 787 Dreamliner and 777X programs have been battling their own industrial problems.