Wow: United Airlines Orders 270 Planes, Modernizes Cabins With TVs At Every Seat

Wow: United Airlines Orders 270 Planes, Modernizes Cabins With TVs At Every Seat

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United Airlines has today announced a massive aircraft order, as well as new interiors for narrow body aircraft, in a project that’s being called “United Next.” This ultimately doesn’t come as that much of a surprise, since we knew an aircraft order was coming, and there were also rumors of new interiors coming to United planes.

This update is incredibly exciting to see, as it puts United more in Delta’s league, and makes American’s customer experience uncompetitive among the “big three” carriers.

United Airlines orders 737 MAXs & A321neos

United Airlines has today revealed the purchase of 270 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft, described as the largest combined order in the airline’s history, and the biggest order by an individual airline in the past decade. This new aircraft order includes the following planes:

  • 50 Boeing 737 MAX 8s
  • 150 Boeing 737 MAX 10s
  • 70 Airbus A321neos
United Airlines has ordered 200 Boeing 737 MAXs

For context, this complements United’s existing narrow body orders, as follows:

  • United had already ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10s, so the carrier now has a total of 250 of these on order
  • United had already ordered 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, so the carrier now has a total of 90 of these on order
  • United has ordered a total of 79 Boeing 737 MAX 9s, many of which are already in service
  • United had already ordered 50 Airbus A321XLRs (the longest range version of the A321neo), which will be used for long haul flights; the 70 Airbus A321neos, on the other hand, will primarily be used for domestic and short haul international flights

Between new and existing aircraft orders, United now has more than 500 new narrow body aircraft on order. As far as the delivery timeline for these planes goes:

  • 40 new aircraft will be delivered in 2022
  • 138 new aircraft will be delivered in 2023
  • As many as 350 aircraft new aircraft will be delivered in 2024 and beyond
United Airlines has ordered 70 Airbus A321neos

The delivery rate in 2023 is particularly impressive, as United will on average add one new narrow body aircraft to its fleet every three days. With all of these new planes, United hopes to increase domestic departures by almost 30%, and lower per seat carbon emissions significantly.

Between the massive Boeing 737 MAX 10 and Airbus A321neo order, it seems United has intentions to retire its Boeing 757 fleet in the coming years, and then some.

United Airlines reveals new cabin interiors

United’s newly ordered aircraft will feature a new signature interior that includes:

  • Seatback entertainment at every seat — first class will have 13″ monitors, while economy will have 10″ monitors, with 2,800 movies, TV shows, and more
  • Larger overhead bins
  • High speed Wi-Fi
  • AC power and USB outlets at every seat
  • LED lighting that contributes to a bright new look

What’s the timeline for these new interiors?

That’s right — by 2025, all United Airlines mainline jets will feature personal televisions at every seat.

United Airlines 737 MAX 8 interior

United Airlines installing more premium seats

Not only is United Airlines introducing more premium interiors with personal televisions at every mainline seat, but the airline is also boosting how many premium seats it offers on domestic mainline flights.

United expects to have an average of 53 premium seats (which includes first class and Economy Plus) per North American departure by 2026, which is a 75% increase over 2019 levels, and more than any competitor in North America.

In other words, you can expect that United will continue to install lots of first class and Economy Plus seats on upcoming planes. For example, upcoming United Boeing 737 MAX 8s will feature 16 first class seats and 54 extra legroom economy seats, while American’s Boeing 737 MAX 8s feature 16 first class seats and 30 extra legroom economy seats.

United Airlines’ new narrow body interiors

My take on “United Next”

It’s impressive to see the direction United Airlines is headed. United is not only investing in new planes, but actually creating a passenger experience that customers might enjoy, with more premium seats. So while American has removed personal televisions from narrow body aircraft, United is going the opposite direction. Not only will United offer personal televisions on newly delivered aircraft, but existing mainline aircraft are also being reconfigured with this amenity.

United CEO Scott Kirby sure has come a long way. Back in his America West and American Airlines days he was known for being a bean counter, while now he seems to see value in investing in the passenger experience. I trust that Kirby didn’t suddenly become bad at math, so clearly the numbers work out when offering a passenger experience that people want.

I’m curious to see if American continues with its current strategy and offers an uncompetitive product, or if both Delta and United investing in a more premium experience forces American to compete. I’m guessing that it’s probably not a great morning at American Airlines headquarters

I also find it interesting how United is going all-in on the Boeing 737 MAX 10, which is a plane that hasn’t been that popular with other airlines. I think it’s a fantastic plane for domestic flights — it’s high capacity and fuel efficient, and while it doesn’t have amazing range, there are a lot of routes where it works extremely well.

Bottom line

United Airlines has placed an order for 270 new aircraft, including 170 Boeing 737 MAXs and 100 Airbus A321neos. These planes will allow United to modernize its domestic fleet.

Arguably the even more exciting news is that United Airlines will be installing personal televisions at every seat throughout its mainline fleet, thanks to an aggressive project that will see the airline retrofitting all planes by 2025. Well done, United!

What do you make of United’s aircraft order and new interiors?

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  1. JetJ0ck

    Yay United! Excellent move. Now let’s just drop that little plan to allow your employees to have visible tattoos.

  2. glenn t

    How wise is it for UA to bet the house on the 737 MAX? Just one more major MAX air disaster and the strategy is down the toilet.
    Also one would hope the new whizzbang rollout would be completed in a more timely manner than Polaris (has that been completed?).

  3. magice

    I once heard that Premium Economy is the highest revenue per sq ft class. Given that they probably also is lighter per sq ft (not being so packed), I would not be surprised if Premium Economy is the most profitable class. As such, any decent CEO would want to maximize that piece.

  4. Erick

    United and American do not compete head to head in the same routes . The main competitor of American is spirit.

    1. Tim Dunn

      Erick
      American and United each have hubs at Chicago O'Hare, the only remaining hub in the middle of the U.S. that hosts two legacy carrier hubs. American and United are pretty similarly sized domestically at O'Hare but United dominates the international market there. American and Delta have hubs at New York JFK although Delta has been substantially larger than American for years while American, Delta and United all call Los Angeles international as a hub.

  5. David W

    I have not seen any mention of seat pitch. I am an unhappy AA flyer now that Oasis resulted in one more inch than Spirit. And those bathrooms! What is the seat pitch on the new and upgraded aircraft?

  6. Donna

    Can’t complain about new planes! I’m in the camp that doesn’t miss IFE in domestic flights as long as I have a working power outlet at my seat. I use IFE from time to time on long haul international flights. It would be nice if the new planes had more, instead of less legroom, but that’s probably asking for too much. The larger overhead bins is a big deal but could be blunted if they cram in a few more rows of seats.

  7. David

    I think there's a typo in the headline. Shouldn't it be Delta? We all know nobody does anything in this industry unless Delta does it first.

    1. Tim Dunn

      I know you are being satirical, but with all due respect, Delta was the first of the big 3 to start ditching regional jets in favor of mainline flights. Delta has also been aggressive at refurbishing its cabins and it also realized that seatback video matters even on domestic flights.
      United is indeed making huge strides but, again with all due respect, most of what they are doing strategically with this announcement, Delta did...

      I know you are being satirical, but with all due respect, Delta was the first of the big 3 to start ditching regional jets in favor of mainline flights. Delta has also been aggressive at refurbishing its cabins and it also realized that seatback video matters even on domestic flights.
      United is indeed making huge strides but, again with all due respect, most of what they are doing strategically with this announcement, Delta did do it first. The size of United's aircraft order reflects that they will have to spend more to catch up.
      A number of analysts recognize that American is also potentially further behind the eight ball with a much larger regional jet fleet in the future compared to Delta and United - which will become more of an issue as demand for pilots deepens.

  8. Juan

    United seems to be turning a corner with the economy class experience after Oscar Munoz left. It had definitely gone downhill over the years to the point where I avoided it unless is was a short direct flight, but I'd be willing to try United again on longer flights with these updates.

    1. John

      My impression of Munoz was that he was personnel focused in his approach, as opposed to being customer focused. Customer experience was downhill even before he took the top job, but you're absolutely right that he didn't really address that festering issue in his tenure. Here's hoping the focus shifts back to customer experience, at least until everyone starts racing back to the bottom. It comes in cycles....

  9. Dan

    I’m sorry, but I do think the seat back TVs are pointless in today’s world. Everyone has a smart phone or tablet to watch the free inflight stuff. I once flew United to China on a full flight and my seat back didn’t even work. They tend to break often and are out of date a month after they are installed. While I agree AA deserves much criticism for customer experience, removing the seat backs is no loss in my view.

    1. P-LGA

      On the investor call this morning, United seemed to suggest that there is a significant positive impact on NPS by just having screens on planes - the so-called halo effect where everything else seems better. So if even having (currently old) IFE onboard that no one uses makes that much of a difference, it's a worthy gamble to invest in some new ones.

    2. Tim Dunn

      of course there is a benefit from screens, even if you carry your own device.
      Delta figured this out years ago in part because it chose to become competitive with JetBlue in the NE.
      Competition forces companies to look at their strategies.
      American is increasingly the lone airline out among the US big 3.

    3. John

      Not necessarily. I invariably end up watching content on the seat back TV even though I carry my own devices. I know exactly what stuff I have on my phone/ipad, so it's nice to be surprised by new and interesting content which I don't have or didn't think of downloading......Think of it as a 'goodie bag' approach. You'll eventually find something to watch. And besides, your phone and content will ALWAYS be there every other time.

    4. Clem

      Removing screens is assuming that everyone has a device, including families traveling with kids for instance: they would have to buy a device for everyone. So having an IFE does not prevent you from watching content on your own device if you prefer to do so, but removing IFE could be a huge nuisance for many people. Better to have a choice than not.

  10. michael

    While this sounds nice, it is putting lipstick on a pig. United has severe customerservice issues. Why not work on improving customer service first? A new seat with tv sounds great until United leaves this platinum member stranded at an airport without a hotel or a flight attendant leaves dishes in the middle of the aisle while in flgiht that I tripped on......

  11. stogieguy7

    As a UA flier, generally positive, yet mixed feelings about this. The massive fleet update is definitely overdue. Nice new interiors will be more that welcome! And not having to take an RJ from ORD to places like ATL or PIT or CLE will be welcome too. However, I can't say I'm pleased that so many of those bargain basement MAX aircraft will be coming on line with UA. They are simply inferior to the...

    As a UA flier, generally positive, yet mixed feelings about this. The massive fleet update is definitely overdue. Nice new interiors will be more that welcome! And not having to take an RJ from ORD to places like ATL or PIT or CLE will be welcome too. However, I can't say I'm pleased that so many of those bargain basement MAX aircraft will be coming on line with UA. They are simply inferior to the A320neo, both in the passenger experience (smaller diameter fuselage) and in flight technology (building on a 1960's design). If UA configures the seat generously enough (and it sounds like they might), they will still be fine to fly in.

    As for AA, they are being left behind because they've cheapened the experience and gone after the ULC carriers like Alliegiant and Spirit. And, judging from the news, they're getting some of the ULCC passengers too. Their interiors may be newer, but they are so damn dense that (being tall) I avoid AA at all costs. Last flight I took with them was in domestic first on an Oasis configured a/c and I had less legroom than in United Economy Plus. It wasn't even close. And AA seems to have fewer MCE seats than UA's E+ as well. So AA has a lot more problems than missing seatback entertainment (which I don't consider that high of a priority).

  12. John

    I think it's funny that United is making a big deal about installing seat-back entertainment with "free movies, tv, games." This is something that Delta did about 15 years ago... and United is proud of themselves for only taking 15 years to catch up??

  13. Sel, D.

    Lol I think Ben didn’t get to watch TV growing up. Makes American’s customer experience uncompetitive? A screen is a very small part of the customer experience. Many people, including myself, find them to be a nuisance on shorter flights given all of the interruptions. I see many younger fliers not even use them because they can’t connect to the hardwired headphone jack. Don’t forget how terrible IFEs are for the environment. Biggest takeaway here...

    Lol I think Ben didn’t get to watch TV growing up. Makes American’s customer experience uncompetitive? A screen is a very small part of the customer experience. Many people, including myself, find them to be a nuisance on shorter flights given all of the interruptions. I see many younger fliers not even use them because they can’t connect to the hardwired headphone jack. Don’t forget how terrible IFEs are for the environment. Biggest takeaway here is all of the extra legroom seats.

  14. Bob Hunter

    The interiors look terrific and it’s always great to see any airline make improvements but I find it interesting your article points out that American isn’t competitive. Doesn’t American already have high-speed Wi-Fi gate to gate on every single narrowbody plane and were the first to have it? Does’nt American already have larger overhead bins now in almost all of their narrow body airplanes with the last ones slated to be done by the end...

    The interiors look terrific and it’s always great to see any airline make improvements but I find it interesting your article points out that American isn’t competitive. Doesn’t American already have high-speed Wi-Fi gate to gate on every single narrowbody plane and were the first to have it? Does’nt American already have larger overhead bins now in almost all of their narrow body airplanes with the last ones slated to be done by the end of this year? Doesn’t American have the largest library of entertainment available with conveniently placed personal device holders so that you can work on your laptop and watch a movie on your larger screen personal device utilizing either their library or of your own content? Is it just the screens that makes that much difference? Will be interesting to see how that incredibly expensive investment pans out for United.

    1. Shawn

      I think the issue is I have had numerous instances where seat outlets and usb isn’t working. So for a flight from Hawaii to east coast is a little crazy to have no power and be expected to use ones Device for all entertainment. On one, I would prefer using my phone. But I don’t like having to access their app etc. having swayback entertainment is much more convienent. Instead of AA realizing this, they...

      I think the issue is I have had numerous instances where seat outlets and usb isn’t working. So for a flight from Hawaii to east coast is a little crazy to have no power and be expected to use ones Device for all entertainment. On one, I would prefer using my phone. But I don’t like having to access their app etc. having swayback entertainment is much more convienent. Instead of AA realizing this, they double down and remove American way. If anything if no seat back they should provide free WiFi. That would be a game changer most would prefer imo.

    2. Jetset

      Having so little Main Cabin Extra space is a major issue for AA for me. When travel gets back to normal those cabins sell out or fill up fast which makes it frustrating for a last minute business traveler who can’t book first class.
      The entertainment piece doesn’t matter to me but space in economy does. AA made some poor choices there.

  15. James S

    Remember all those people chanting "the passenger experience doesn't matter only farea do"?

    Have some crow folks. Of course people care, especially when they see Delta and JetBlue offering more for the same price.

  16. DLPTATL

    Am I the only one that thinks, as remote as the possibility is, that if one more 737 MAX goes down now that the software has been jerry rigged, errr I mean 'fixed' to account for the sub-optimal weight distribution of the aircraft, the public will lose all confidence in flying them even if the FAA and other regulatory bodies don't keep them out of the sky for months or years. The accident could be...

    Am I the only one that thinks, as remote as the possibility is, that if one more 737 MAX goes down now that the software has been jerry rigged, errr I mean 'fixed' to account for the sub-optimal weight distribution of the aircraft, the public will lose all confidence in flying them even if the FAA and other regulatory bodies don't keep them out of the sky for months or years. The accident could be for a completely unrelated cause, I just don't think people will care. If they have a choice to fly a MAX or virtually anything else, they'll pick the non-MAX. This puts Southwest and now United in what I would consider a precarious position. I guess it's a battle between cost/fleet continuity (also related to cost) vs. diversifying risk.

    1. Jan

      Yeah no one outside of the travel blog bubble cares about the past MAX issues anymore, as the general public has moved on to worrying about more pressing issues such as the rampant inflation.

    2. Jan

      AA doing the same will be admitting that Oasis is a failure. I think AA will double down in a race to the bottom.

      Which is not the worst scenario for AA guys if they can catch an Alaska of a JetBlue codeshare flight instead

  17. NSS

    - United had already ordered 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, so the carrier now has a total of 90 of these on order
    - United has ordered a total of 79 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, many of which are already in service

    Is one of these MAX 9?

  18. Jeff

    Huge step forward in the right direction for United and a very exciting time for them. I'm interested in what new opportunities they see with the new aircraft, especially with the MAX 10s and A321neos.

    At least the TVs will now make them much more competitive with Delta and will make the fare premium you pay for them over the ULCCs more worthwhile. Can't say the same about AA as they rip TVs out of the seats because "it's what the customers want".

  19. Eric

    Great for United. Can they return the multi billion taxpayer funded bailouts now?

    Oh, they won't be? Because flying is an industry that provides disproportionate benefits to high income people with a huge carbon footprint through enormous government subsidies so that they can complain online about, "mah first class catering!" while pretending to support free markets?

    I see.

  20. pstm91

    The negative comments here are completely justified, but at the same time, at least now they are finally making a "positive" update.

    Also, Ben, don't forget this is on top of their mega supersonic order!! ;)

  21. Shawn

    Exciting change?

    This post is as tone deaf as United. After they fleece the American taxpayer they then proceed to purchase this number of aircraft and “modernize” their cabin? I thought they were a stones throw from bankruptcy a couple of months ago when Kirby was in dc sucking the govt teet.

  22. TheBlackBrent

    Modernize, lol.

    So in 2025 they will have IFE on all planes? Something real airlines like EK and QR would have had for 15 years by that time?

    Wow indeed.

    1. Redman

      “Real airlines like EK and QR” is all you needed to say for the entire community to tune your idiotic comments out.

      I’m happy to see United being aggressive here with a solid plan going forward. It’s a bummer that the airline loaded up their basket with 737 Max’s at the dollar store for this order. We all know Boeing has been waiting to cut some big discounts on these pigs with lipstick since the...

      “Real airlines like EK and QR” is all you needed to say for the entire community to tune your idiotic comments out.

      I’m happy to see United being aggressive here with a solid plan going forward. It’s a bummer that the airline loaded up their basket with 737 Max’s at the dollar store for this order. We all know Boeing has been waiting to cut some big discounts on these pigs with lipstick since the huge grounding took place. While I wish the entire order was all A321NEO/XLR It’s better than nothing.

      Also this order spells certain doom for the 757 fleet. Enjoy them while you can.

    2. Justin

      Not EK and QR, but Delta has offered seatback entertainment, larger overhead bins, high speed wifi and LED lighting on all over their planes for YEARS. So ya United does look a little bit "behind" compared to a real airline.

    3. KK13

      This is about UA's domestic sector, mostly.

    4. TM

      What a moronic comment. You are comparing apples (long-haul/wide body aircraft) to oranges (shot-haul/narrow body aircraft). All of UA's long haul aircraft have IFE, just like these supposed 'real airlines'. This new order is entirely narrow body aircraft to upgrade UAs already massive fleet, which is more than three times the size of those 'real airlines'.

    5. TheBlackBrent

      Why apples to oranges? All QR narrowbodies have IFE and most have flatbeds in business, problem? FlyDubai flies brand new 737 MAX with IFE on every seat and a decent business class product.

      US domestic, not even once.

    6. Jetset

      You can’t compare UA to middle eastern carriers. Completely different markets, customers etc.

      Delta is a fair comparison.

      The US market doesn’t require such premium oriented airlines - we basically have 3 international carriers and one large domestic (SW) so United doesn’t need to offer a Qatar flight experience to make money.

    7. TM

      QR and EK operate almost exclusively long haul international, so comparing IFE in those fleets to Uniteds massive domestic short-haul fleet is apples to oranges. QR owns around 30 A320s, while UA owns over 500 single aisle aircraft. This new order from UA alone is for more aircraft than the entire QR fleet. So, bringing up those “real” airlines is irrelevant when UAs main competition in this regard is DL (IFE on every plane except...

      QR and EK operate almost exclusively long haul international, so comparing IFE in those fleets to Uniteds massive domestic short-haul fleet is apples to oranges. QR owns around 30 A320s, while UA owns over 500 single aisle aircraft. This new order from UA alone is for more aircraft than the entire QR fleet. So, bringing up those “real” airlines is irrelevant when UAs main competition in this regard is DL (IFE on every plane except the 717), AA (shifting away from IFE), and WN (no IFE at all).

  23. Jason

    Bravo! I hope the new IFE system will support in seat food and drink orders like Virgin America. Think about it: order and pay at your seat while logged into MileagePlus! Less work for FAs and more customized/on demand for pax.

    This whole initiative is very exciting and I hope they follow through - and if so they are taking my business from WN…. Starting to like ScottK.

    1. DDJK

      Ditto. Really hope it's more than just tv/movies. Virgin's in-seat ordering was well executed from the few times I used it.

  24. Anthony

    Hmmmm. I still think the ground / airport experience for DL and AA are better than UA in the NYC area. But I will need to think about it long term, especially if Newark gets improved. Back under 5/24 for Chase next year, may throw in an app for a United card...

  25. Abidjan

    AA's update? >> no more American Way. AAwesome.

  26. Ben

    American has only 24 MCE seats in their 738s now - the "Kodiak" config improved F legroom slightly at the expense of MCE in row 10. Now it's only rows 8, 9, and the two exit rows with MCE.

  27. Sharon

    With the looming pilot shortage, this is very smart thinking on United’s part to order high capacity domestic fleet.

    Costal hubs will see big capacity increases, without the need for more slots, great way for United to boost market share.

    Very exciting passenger friendly announcement.

    I’m just wondering, since so many new planes are coming online , is it really worth the capex to retrofit all the old planes?

  28. John

    UA actually doing something nice for their economy pax?! I'm stunned. Not being sarcastic at all. Just genuinely stunned and impressed.

    1. Steve

      I am stunned and impressed, I will not be requalifying for exec plat this year and will only make gold, this combined with the recent developments from both UA and AA means that i will be flying United much more in 2022.

  29. Russ

    “I’m curious to see if American stays course and continues to offer an uncompetitive product, or if both Delta and United investing in a more premium experience forces United to compete.”

    …American to Compete.

Featured Comments Load all 52 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Redman

“Real airlines like EK and QR” is all you needed to say for the entire community to tune your idiotic comments out. I’m happy to see United being aggressive here with a solid plan going forward. It’s a bummer that the airline loaded up their basket with 737 Max’s at the dollar store for this order. We all know Boeing has been waiting to cut some big discounts on these pigs with lipstick since the huge grounding took place. While I wish the entire order was all A321NEO/XLR It’s better than nothing. Also this order spells certain doom for the 757 fleet. Enjoy them while you can.

John

Not necessarily. I invariably end up watching content on the seat back TV even though I carry my own devices. I know exactly what stuff I have on my phone/ipad, so it's nice to be surprised by new and interesting content which I don't have or didn't think of downloading......Think of it as a 'goodie bag' approach. You'll eventually find something to watch. And besides, your phone and content will ALWAYS be there every other time.

TM

QR and EK operate almost exclusively long haul international, so comparing IFE in those fleets to Uniteds massive domestic short-haul fleet is apples to oranges. QR owns around 30 A320s, while UA owns over 500 single aisle aircraft. This new order from UA alone is for more aircraft than the entire QR fleet. So, bringing up those “real” airlines is irrelevant when UAs main competition in this regard is DL (IFE on every plane except the 717), AA (shifting away from IFE), and WN (no IFE at all).

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