United is to add 270 Boeing and Airbus aircraft to its fleet – the largest order in airline’s history and the biggest by a single carrier in a decade.
“United Next” will include the addition of 200 Boeing 737 MAX and 70 Airbus A321neo as well as plans to retrofit 100 per cent of remaining mainline, narrow-body fleet to transform the customer experience and create a new signature interior. The improvements will enable a roughly 75 per cent increase in premium seats per North American departure, larger overhead bins, seatback entertainment in every seat and industry’s fastest available WiFi.
The airline added that the plan will also significantly lower carbon emissions per seat and create tens of thousands of quality, unionised jobs by 2026. 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. In 2023 alone, United’s fleet will, on average, add about one new narrow-body aircraft every three days.
Order accompanied by announcement of massive retrofit programme
United’s new aircraft order – 50 737 MAX 8s, 150 737 MAX 10s and 70 A321neos – will come with a new signature interior as well as a bright look-and-feel with LED lighting. The airline expects to fly the first 737 MAX 8 with the signature interior this summer and to begin flying the 737 MAX 10 and the Airbus A321neo in early 2023. United also intends to carry out a massive retrofit programme, upgrading 100 per cent of its mainline, narrow-body fleet to the same standards by 2025.
The order will significantly boost United’s total number of mainline daily departures and available seats across the airline’s North American network, as well as the number of premium seats. United expects it will have on average 53 premium seats per North American departure by 2026, an increase of about 75 per cent over 2019, and more than any North American competitor.
United CEO Scott Kirby said: “Our United Next vision will revolutionise the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel. 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, traveller spending and commerce.”
Measures will create 25,000 jobs
United expects to create approximately 25,000 well-paying, unionised jobs at the airline as a result of adding the new aircraft and, based on a study from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airline expects to drive more than $30 billion in traveller spending and contribute an estimated $50 billion annually towards the US economy by 2026.
The addition of the new 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo aircraft means United will replace older, smaller mainline jets and at least 200 single-class regional jets with larger aircraft, which the airline expects will lead to significant sustainability benefits compared to older planes with an expected 11 per cent overall improvement in fuel efficiency and an expected 17-20 per cent lower carbon emission per seat compared to older planes.