United Airlines Expected To Place Huge Aircraft Order

United Airlines Expected To Place Huge Aircraft Order

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Update: United Airlines has formally announced an order for 270 aircraft, including 170 Boeing 737 MAXs and 100 Airbus A321neos.

While there’s nothing official yet, there have been widespread rumors that United Airlines is expected to announce a huge aircraft order next week, possibly the biggest in its history. I wanted to take a look at what we do know, and share my thoughts on what we might see.

United Airlines could order 200+ jets

As noted by Forbes, United Airlines is shortly expected to announce what may be its biggest aircraft order ever. According to sources, United Airlines will order 200+ jets, which could be split between the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321. For context:

  • United Airlines already operates a fleet of 300+ Boeing 737s, and has 200+ Boeing 737 MAX jets on order; the carrier just ordered 25 more Boeing 737 MAXs a few months ago
  • United Airlines currently operates a fleet of 200+ Airbus A319s and Airbus A320s, and has 50 Airbus A321XLRs on order, which will partly replace Boeing 757-200s
United Airlines has already ordered the A321XLR

Based on the carrier’s fleet, my guess would be that:

  • United will order Boeing 737 MAX 8s; United has 140+ Boeing 737-800s, but has only ordered 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, so it makes sense that United would want replacements for this aircraft
  • Perhaps we’ll see United order A320neos and/or A321neos, intended to replace the current A319 and A320 fleet
United Airlines is expected to order more 737 MAXs

There’s also talk of the airline potentially ordering some wide body jets, but it remains to be seen if that materializes.

On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, United Airlines is expected to have an investor presentation, during which it will provide an “update on its strategy.” This is when the news is expected to come out. United hasn’t officially confirmed the news of an aircraft order, with a spokesperson stating the following:

“We do not currently have a deal in place with Boeing or Airbus to purchase new aircraft and do not comment on speculative aircraft orders.”

But a United Airlines spokesperson also said the following, which almost seems to suggest that such an announcement is coming:

“We have, for months now, turned our attention away from managing the crisis of the pandemic and toward planning for our bright future. Those plans include thinking about how to harness the power of the best, midcontinent hubs in the industry; capitalizing on the financial benefits of increasing the gauge of our fleet and, most importantly, building on the significant improvements in our customers’ experience.”

What else will United Airlines announce?

It seems that Tuesday’s announcement isn’t just going to be about new aircraft orders, but is likely part of an even bigger announcement. I almost get the sense that Tuesday’s announcement may be along the lines of when United announced the new Polaris product many years back.

Reading between the lines based on the above statement from a United spokesperson:

Will United announce that personal televisions are returning to more planes?

The industry sure changes quickly

More a general industry observation, rather than anything specific to United Airlines. It’s fascinating to me how during the pandemic airlines were warning that if they didn’t receive billions of dollars in government aid the industry would basically never be the same.

Sure enough they got that money, and now just months later, airlines are back to spending money on things ranging from new planes, to supersonic jets, to electric air taxis. I guess privatizing profits and socializing losses is nothing new in the airline industry, though.

How American Airlines is spending its money now

Bottom line

United Airlines is expected to make an announcement next Tuesday, which is expected to include a massive aircraft order. The airline is expected to order 200+ 737 MAX and A321 family jets, and there may even be some other aircraft orders in the mix.

This is likely part of an even bigger announcement, though, which could include some updates to hub strategy, as well as improvements to the customer experience. I’m curious to see how this plays out.

What kind of an announcement are you expecting from United?

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  1. OpsDave

    Looking forward to hearing about UA’s new offerings and plan(s) of action. I hope UA increases flying in ATL by allowing some flights to operate on gates that require a brief train ride out to one of the concourses.

  2. Heyward

    I have flown all the US Carriers and have found United better than any of them. That has been my experience over the past 20 years of flying all the time for business. Others may find AA better. It depends on the hub you go out of all the time as well. I go out of Washington Dulles and United pretty much owns that place. Glad to see them upgrading as they come back alive from COVID.

  3. Dave

    I doubt that United would order the A320NEO if they have the MAX 8. After all, AA doesn't have the A320NEO either since they already have MAX 8s. I think they'd stick to only the A321 variant of the NEO family. No 737 MAX model competes directly with the A321NEO, not even the MAX 10 since that plane's still slightly smaller. Forget about the A319NEO, the A220 and even the MAX 7 are more efficient than the A319NEO.

    1. CraigTPA

      Part of it is just delivery schedules - if UA can get a mixed Boeing/Airbus order delivered faster, then maintaining a split fleet could make sense, expecially if they go with the A321XLR for 757 replacement on the long routes that can't take a widebody.

  4. WikiWiki

    I’ve never understood the desire for seatback televisions; I find them horribly distracting. Constant flashing light everywhere you look, even if you turn off your own. I’d much rather have a seatback with a mount for a tablet or phone that gives the user full control rather than the visual glut more appropriate for the Las Vegas Strip.

    1. Gravelly Point Guy

      AA troll, here we go!! Vomit it all up!

    2. CraigTPA

      A simple eye mask solves this problem nicely, although I would rather have the online option.

  5. Elizabeth

    I can't wait for Boom to start making supersonic air travel again. Big deal with those subsonic lumbering gas guzzlers.

  6. Sean Thomas

    "privatizing profits and socializing losses is nothing new in the airline industry, though."

    That's the American way!

  7. Jance

    "to harness the power of the best, midcontinent hubs in the industry"

    So they will continue to add more international long-haul flights out of Chicago and Denver, maybe Houston.

    Exactly what everyone who doesn't live in the middle of the continent does NOT want: having to fly through Denver or Chicago or Houston to get where they want to go.

    United has completely abandoned major coastal cities. Seattle, for example. If you originate in Seattle...

    "to harness the power of the best, midcontinent hubs in the industry"

    So they will continue to add more international long-haul flights out of Chicago and Denver, maybe Houston.

    Exactly what everyone who doesn't live in the middle of the continent does NOT want: having to fly through Denver or Chicago or Houston to get where they want to go.

    United has completely abandoned major coastal cities. Seattle, for example. If you originate in Seattle and want to fly longhaul on United, you are on a small regional jet, or a 737, to connect to one of their hubs (best option is usually SFO). You just can't get anywhere very far away nonstop on United. It sucks, and just drives customers to airlines that have longhaul nonstops from SEA to where they want to go (there are more and more of them). Where I want to go will never be Denver or Chicago or Houston.

    Prediction: A new Polaris lounge to be built at DIA?

    1. NK 314Lot

      Of course everyone wants direct flights from their home airport. That's why the 787 has been so successful while the 747 is stuck hauling freight.

      UA has a fair amount of international out of Chicago, plenty of South and Central America out of Houston, and just a few routes out of Denver. Plenty of room for growth, especially considering you can hop on a foreign carrier non-stop to many more destinations than what UA serves.

    2. Gravelly Point Guy

      @Jance Says who exactly?? Yeah, I’m sure stinky DFW and ATL are delightful airports to transit through! Pure BS!

    3. CraigTPA

      ATL really isn't that bad, except for the thunderstorm delays in the summer. Would rather connect there (outside of T-storm season) than at DFW (roughly on par with IAH, which isn't that bad either) or ORD.

  8. Goforride

    It's sad that someone who is so supposedly "in the know" about the airline industry would make some college sophomore comment about "privatizing profits and socializing losses."

    You might want to check about the very much privatized losses of not just UA., but the whole of the global airline industry in 2020.

    There's a certain cohort on the left that never met a profitable corporation that provides not just a good or service that people...

    It's sad that someone who is so supposedly "in the know" about the airline industry would make some college sophomore comment about "privatizing profits and socializing losses."

    You might want to check about the very much privatized losses of not just UA., but the whole of the global airline industry in 2020.

    There's a certain cohort on the left that never met a profitable corporation that provides not just a good or service that people choose to spend their money on, like the corner dry cleaners, but that is a key element of the economy, like airlines or oil companies.

    United, as well all the rest of the domestic airlines, was perfectly willing to lay off tens of thousands of employees and shrink down to survive the pandemic travel drop, but doing so would have been a drag on the economy if, as we are seeing now, the economy bounced back faster than was expected.

    What the taxpayers did was to socialize the employees' welfare who apparently hadn't planned for the unforeseeable, just as the airlines were criticized for buying back stock a couple of years ago and not putting more money aside for the unimaginable.

    1. David

      No, United was not “perfectly willing” to shrink and adjust to burning the cash their operating profit and capitalization would allow. They, in cahoots with the unions, ferociously lobbied for three rounds of cash stood from the taxpayers.
      They would not have ceased operations. They’ve gone through bankruptcies before without skipping a beat, operationally.
      They’d cut back, park some planes and furlough or fire some of the staff. Once demand recovered, they’d hire...

      No, United was not “perfectly willing” to shrink and adjust to burning the cash their operating profit and capitalization would allow. They, in cahoots with the unions, ferociously lobbied for three rounds of cash stood from the taxpayers.
      They would not have ceased operations. They’ve gone through bankruptcies before without skipping a beat, operationally.
      They’d cut back, park some planes and furlough or fire some of the staff. Once demand recovered, they’d hire back the people, and prep the aircraft for flying. Or if demand never recovered, then they wouldn’t do those. Either way, nothing was gained by society from tens of billions being lavished on the airlines and the unions. It was the result of raw political and lobbying muscle.
      Your blabbering about the “left never meeting a profitable corporation they right like” make free-marketers shriek i. Horror at the stupidity.
      The airlines are protected (cabotage) coasted (no foreign pwnership), and favored (nxbwjrs keep slots and gates for free), yet insist on taxpayer money whenever things get rough.

  9. Marek

    Wouldn't AA's 400+ plane order still be bigger?

  10. SEM

    @Ben Thoughts on a smaller airframe order being included here? One of Kirby's first actions when he was brought on was axing the 737-700 order that was on the books. Theoretically that order was to take back more express market share w/ the larger then express but smaller then everything else capacity.
    Fingers crossed for the A220-XXX!

    1. Goforride

      I think you hit the nail with the A220.

  11. Steve

    It is very good news to see United installing IFE on new planes and retrofitting old ones and adding them. Its such a joy for most non regular travelers when they start walking down the aisles and see the tvs.

  12. EC2

    Nothing UA is doing will make me more inspired to fly them. It’s either Delta, JetBlue or Alaska for my domestic travel. Foreign carriers for international travel.

  13. Tim Dunn

    United has the oldest fleet among US airlines (see airfleets for real time numbers) and this order, combined w/ what they already have on order, could cover the replacement of virtually their entire narrowbody fleet within 5-7 years. However, they will add $8-10 billion in debt even as they face about that same amount of debt maturities over the next 4 years. They could easily overtake American as the most leveraged U.S. airline.
    United...

    United has the oldest fleet among US airlines (see airfleets for real time numbers) and this order, combined w/ what they already have on order, could cover the replacement of virtually their entire narrowbody fleet within 5-7 years. However, they will add $8-10 billion in debt even as they face about that same amount of debt maturities over the next 4 years. They could easily overtake American as the most leveraged U.S. airline.
    United isn't dealing with its problem of such a large number of 50 seat regional jets, the most inefficient (labor and fuel) aircraft in the US carrier fleet. Their fixes to the mainline fleet will still be dragged down on their high reliance on small regional jets.
    Given that United is seeing the most amount of growth of low cost carriers in its largest hubs (JetBlue in Newark and Southwest in Denver, Houston and Chicago), this is truly time for United to figure out a way to compete.
    Sharon,
    United has re-added a smaller percentage of capacity than any other US airline and has seen its capacity share eroded far more than any other airline. American is also seeing substantial erosion of capacity share, esp. in Miami, but Delta's capacity share is virtually unchanged in all of its hubs except for Los Angeles where it is now the largest airline.

    1. Gravelly Point Guy

      Tim, you are the worst airline critic I’ve seen. Always, always, always against anything UA does. No matter what, it’s the worst according to you. Well I got news for you, UA is not only poised to overtake both AA and UA as the world’s largest airline on several metrics, but the quality and characteristics of the product will be unmatched. You are just a Bitter piece of human excrement, bitter and jealous piece of...

      Tim, you are the worst airline critic I’ve seen. Always, always, always against anything UA does. No matter what, it’s the worst according to you. Well I got news for you, UA is not only poised to overtake both AA and UA as the world’s largest airline on several metrics, but the quality and characteristics of the product will be unmatched. You are just a Bitter piece of human excrement, bitter and jealous piece of shit. It really just reflects who you really are as a person.

    2. sharon

      I believe that United is really looking to improve their game which is exciting! They have already demonstrated they are interested in doing this through the Polaris introduction and commitment to premium service.

      Of any of the big 3, United will become most transformed over the next few years I believe.
      American is looking to cut costs inline with BA, Delta will stay their course, but United is on the rise.

    3. Tim Dunn

      We are free to have our opinions but we aren't free to make up our own "facts" or reject those which are easily verifiable.
      United has the oldest fleet in the US which has to be updated, is the most dependent on international travel and Asia which will be the slowest to return, and had a plan to improve the performance of its mid-continent hubs (something none of the other 3 have stated they...

      We are free to have our opinions but we aren't free to make up our own "facts" or reject those which are easily verifiable.
      United has the oldest fleet in the US which has to be updated, is the most dependent on international travel and Asia which will be the slowest to return, and had a plan to improve the performance of its mid-continent hubs (something none of the other 3 have stated they needed to do) even as competitors have grown aggressively precisely in those hubs. United had the lowest market share in its hubs and there has been more competitive capacity added in more of United's hubs than either American or Delta.

      I am not against United or anything else. I am committed to making sure the facts are known when there are facts involved. If the discussion is subjective - such as preference for a particular company's products or services - no one is any more right or wrong.

    4. stogieguy7

      Tim is well known for being a Delta fan boy, that's all he's about. If that means hating on UA, so be it.

      BTW - love the screen name! One of my favorite diversions in the Washington area is a visit to Gravelly Point.

    5. Tim Dunn

      You would succeed if you provided data and sources that show I am wrong; since everything I posted comes from public financial statements and United's own investor presentations, that will be hard to do.
      The truth isn't what we want it to be but what it is.

      And I have posted plenty of positive things about United but having to place a massive order for new aircraft while also hinting about hub strategy changes...

      You would succeed if you provided data and sources that show I am wrong; since everything I posted comes from public financial statements and United's own investor presentations, that will be hard to do.
      The truth isn't what we want it to be but what it is.

      And I have posted plenty of positive things about United but having to place a massive order for new aircraft while also hinting about hub strategy changes (maybe that happens and maybe it won't) both reflect risk

    6. Brent Kellogg

      Deltas never seen a used aircraft they didn’t have the itch to buy. No a fan of their stinginess. Presence in SeaTac as one of their hubs vs Alaska Air is always a stink.

    7. Goforride

      I don't agree with much of what you say, but I enthusiastically agree with your comment about UAX's 50-seaters. UA seems to be in position to drop about 100 of them when they get fully up to speed, something Kirby mentioned over a year ago.

      I suspect there is something in the works regarding Denver and UAX. With Commutair's establishing a hub there, essentially taking over Skywest's CRJ operation, and with considerable talk about...

      I don't agree with much of what you say, but I enthusiastically agree with your comment about UAX's 50-seaters. UA seems to be in position to drop about 100 of them when they get fully up to speed, something Kirby mentioned over a year ago.

      I suspect there is something in the works regarding Denver and UAX. With Commutair's establishing a hub there, essentially taking over Skywest's CRJ operation, and with considerable talk about UA's "mid-continent" operations, something has to be up. That's a huge market to be flying EMB-145's against much more modern planes and service.

  14. Sharon

    United is also going to be talking about how they want to regain their natural market share

    delta & united have largely retreated on many routes…especially internationally, so this makes sense for United to do.

  15. Alan

    Airlines are in an infinitely better financial position then they were in Spring 2020. The deals with Archer and Boom- and likely an order with Boeing- will require very little cash up front. I think you can reasonably argue that airlines got one more PSP extension than necessary to survive; make no mistake, however, without the original PSP all major airlines in the US would have shut down virtually all operations overnight. UA asking for...

    Airlines are in an infinitely better financial position then they were in Spring 2020. The deals with Archer and Boom- and likely an order with Boeing- will require very little cash up front. I think you can reasonably argue that airlines got one more PSP extension than necessary to survive; make no mistake, however, without the original PSP all major airlines in the US would have shut down virtually all operations overnight. UA asking for money from the government and ordering 200 new jets are not happening the same universe, in terms of business outlook.

  16. Sharon

    Very interesting. Dont see why United would order a320neo…. A319 different story since it seats less.

    United is said to double down on Denver hub and push that further to its largest hub

    Could we see another 787 order…the 767 are aging?

    1. Peter Crameri

      No but there is info that they are actually reconsidering asking Boeing to prolong the 747-8 programme as UAL might be potentially looking at 20 examples.

    2. UA-NYC

      No chance in hell they go and order a 4 engine plane

    3. SEM

      But boy isn't it fun to think about the reaction if they would...!!!

    4. Gravelly Point Guy

      Peter, What is the source of this info?? Or are you just “floating” this??

    5. OpsDave

      Sure would be nice, but highly unlikely. It would keep the Boeing 747-8F available for sale so folks like Amazon Air and others could buy some more.

    6. Gravelly Point Guy

      @ops: I think it will happen. Let me tell you why…As part of these rumors that had been spreading about the order, part of them were about a wide body order as well. These rumors started over a month ago. Now, if you see what happened yesterday…B777x certification postponed UFA. Now, UAL already has 45-50 A350’s on order, that’s not going to change. If you see the composition of UAL’s 787 fleet, they are more...

      @ops: I think it will happen. Let me tell you why…As part of these rumors that had been spreading about the order, part of them were about a wide body order as well. These rumors started over a month ago. Now, if you see what happened yesterday…B777x certification postponed UFA. Now, UAL already has 45-50 A350’s on order, that’s not going to change. If you see the composition of UAL’s 787 fleet, they are more than set. They are yet to receive 8 more 787-10’s this year and next to a total of 22 models of this fleet type alone. It would bring it up to a total of 71+ 787’s in their fleet alone, this doesn’t make any sense either. So what is left??? A large 747 order would make sense because it would fill in the gap created by the distortion of the 777 x program. Not only would UAL get a killing discount for the type, but it alSo would allow BA to get some much needed Oxygen pumped into the program. On top of this, United has operated the fleet for 50+ years so it wouldn’t be anything new to them or a hindrance. They got the hangars, the mechanics and even the pilots….Think about it!?

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Gravelly Point Guy

Tim, you are the worst airline critic I’ve seen. Always, always, always against anything UA does. No matter what, it’s the worst according to you. Well I got news for you, UA is not only poised to overtake both AA and UA as the world’s largest airline on several metrics, but the quality and characteristics of the product will be unmatched. You are just a Bitter piece of human excrement, bitter and jealous piece of shit. It really just reflects who you really are as a person.

Heyward

I have flown all the US Carriers and have found United better than any of them. That has been my experience over the past 20 years of flying all the time for business. Others may find AA better. It depends on the hub you go out of all the time as well. I go out of Washington Dulles and United pretty much owns that place. Glad to see them upgrading as they come back alive from COVID.

Brent Kellogg

Deltas never seen a used aircraft they didn’t have the itch to buy. No a fan of their stinginess. Presence in SeaTac as one of their hubs vs Alaska Air is always a stink.

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