United Airlines makes big Boeing order, includes 100 787 Dreamliners

United Airlines will pay roughly $58 billion for 200 new planes in total. PHOTO: AFP

NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina – United Airlines said on Tuesday it is ordering 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 100 737 MAXs as it pushes for post-pandemic growth and replaces older, less-efficient aircraft.

The Chicago-based airline’s order for 200 planes is worth about US$43 billion (S$58 billion) at list prices and represents a big boost to the US planemaker after political and production issues for the two planes in 2022.

United said its new order of 100 737 MAX planes includes exercising options to purchase 44 737 MAX aircraft for delivery between 2024 and 2026 and 56 more MAX aircraft for delivery between 2027 and 2028.

United’s big bet on the 787 reflects expectations for continued rising demand for long-haul travel and a desire to replace older planes. Boeing said it was the biggest Dreamliner order, while United said it represents the largest widebody order by a US carrier.

United will take an average of more than two deliveries of new planes a week in 2023 and more than three a week in 2024.

United also said it would again delay its previously announced order for 45 Airbus A350s until 2030 “at the earliest”.

Industry sources have said this order, an expanded version of one dating back as far as 2009, is effectively in limbo after several delays and may not materialise.

United CEO Scott Kirby told reporters “the right time for 350 versus (787) conversation is when we’re replacing the bulk of the 777s, which really doesn’t begin until the end of the decade”.

Mr Kirby said one key factor in the decision between Boeing and Airbus for its major widebody order was its current 787 fleet.

“When we’re trying to bring on 2,500 pilots a year and grow the airline, introducing a new fleet type slows that down dramatically,” he said.

United hired 15,000 new employees in 2022, including 2,400 pilots, and is on track to hire 15,000 in 2023, including another 2,500 pilots.

It expects to take 787s deliveries between 2024 and 2032 and can choose among 787-8, 9 or 10 models. United will buy 787s to replace its entire 767 fleet by 2030 and some 777s, cutting carbon emissions per seat by about 25 per cent for the new planes.

‘We make more money’

United chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said the order will allow it to replace older planes with new, more fuel-efficient ones with more premium seats that carry more cargo and fly faster.

“We make more money,” Mr Nocella said of the plan.

United said its capital expenditure budget for 2023 is US$9 billion and US$11 billion for 2024 with the bulk for new aircraft.

The airline plans to tout the order at an event on Tuesday at Boeing’s South Carolina factory, with Boeing Commercial planes CEO Stan Deal.

Both the MAX and 787 have faced problems in 2022.

In August, Boeing finally resumed 787 deliveries after production problems forced it to suspend deliveries in May 2021. The Federal Aviation Administration in July approved Boeing’s inspection and retrofit plan needed to meet certification standards and is inspecting each aircraft before delivery.

Last week, Boeing suffered a setback when Congress declined to extend a looming deadline that would impose new safety standards for the MAX 7 and MAX 10 variants. United said 80 of the new 100 MAX planes it is ordering will be the MAX 10.

Boeing has been lobbying for months to convince lawmakers to waive the deadline that affects its MAX 7 and MAX 10 planes and was imposed by Congress in 2020 after two fatal 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. REUTERS

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