United Considering Major Airbus A330neo Or Boeing 787 Order

Filed Under: United

Over the past several weeks, American has made some major plane orders. A few weeks back they placed an order for 47 Boeing 787s, and then just last week the airline placed an order for 30 regional jets, including EMB175s and CRJ900s. It looks like another major US airline is nearing a plane order.

United Airlines has about 50 Boeing 767s in their fleet, which are an average of 21 years old. These planes will eventually need replacing, though there’s not really a direct replacement for the aircraft, given that it’s a bit smaller than the 787 or A330.

Last October there were stories that a major airline — possibly United — was considering an order of 50-100 Boeing 767s. The passenger version of the plane is no longer in production, but since they still produce the cargo version, it wouldn’t be too tough to restart production. While I’m sure United could have scored a deal on these planes, that’s not exactly the most efficient plane out there nowadays in terms of operating costs per seat.

Now there are new rumors. Reuters reports that United is allegedly in talks with both Airbus and Boeing about the possibility of acquiring more Boeing 787s, or adding Airbus A330neos to their fleet. This deal will potentially be worth $14 billion at list prices.

United already has a fleet of 37 787s, including 12 787-8s, and 25 787-9s. The airline has a further 14 on order, though they’re the 787-10 variant. The airline doesn’t presently have any A330s in their fleet, so on one hand selecting the A330neo seems like an odd choice. However, Airbus has lost quite a few orders to Boeing lately, so I suspect United’s motivation here might be that they think they can score a deal on the plane. Hawaiian was supposed to be the first US carrier to take delivery of the A330neo, but they canceled their order in favor of the 787-9.

I’ll be curious to see how this develops. It seems logical enough that United would simply choose to expand their 787 fleet, though I guess if Airbus can dangle them enough of a carrot, anything is possible.

What plane do you think United is most likely to add to their fleet?

(Tip of the hat to @hankypankynyc)

  1. It would seem possible that talking to Airbus about the A330 is a negotiating tactic to get the best price out of Boeing for more 787s. I hate the A330 so I certainly don’t want to see them order those.

  2. Not enough money to serve a hot lunch to first class passengers flying halfway across the US but enough to buy $14b in new aircraft? Smh. Glad I jumped ship to @Delta.

  3. United wouldn’t touch the A330neo. Apparently their rationale for selecting the 777 was that the 330’s ceilings were too low. Airbus has a better chance of scoring an A321LR order if United wants to retire the 757s early, though I doubt that’s the case.

  4. @Doug – What do you “hate” about the A330? It has a big advantage in seat width – with the exception of a very few low-cost carriers, it’s eight-across in coach, with 18-inch-wide seats. The extra inch or so over the Dreamliner (mostly nine-across in coach) makes a difference on longer flights.

  5. Once again, the A330neo fulfills one of it’s biggest and most undervalued missions: making sure Boeing can’t get as much money for their Dreamliners.

    Just as Boeing did with the 747-8i to the A380 – the A330neo doesn’t just exist to get orders. It exists in order be the ‘other choice’ that Airbus can constantly dangle in front of potential 787 buyers in order to force Boeing into offering more favorable prices to get the sale. It’s the thorn in the 787’s side that prevents higher profits.

    United probably won’t buy A330s, but they’ll get a better deal on the 787s than they otherwise would have by thinking about it.

  6. You said that the 767 is smaller than the 787, but looking at the seat counts, United has more seats in its 767s than 787s… it seems like the 787-9 could be configured as a direct replacement? I was always under the impression that the 787 couldn’t replace the 767, but that doesn’t seem to be the case looking at seat counts.

  7. I would much, much rather fly an A330 in an eco 2-4-2 config that a 787 in a 3-3-3. Biz class is the same on both, the real difference is for economy class passengers.

  8. Have you considered the possibility that they leaked rumors that they’re considering Airbus just to have some leverage with Boeing? They might even actually negotiate with Airbus, even though what they really want is a good deal from Boeing on more 787s. I highly doubt they want the cost and complexity of adding a whole new type to their fleet.

  9. @Ben Holz
    The A350 IS the competitor to the 787. Similar range + capacity, similar pressure + humidity in the cabin. Much newer than the A330, which first started flying 16ish years ago. The neo variant of the A330 gives it more range (and lets them cram a few more passengers in), but is otherwise still the same A330 as far as general creature comforts go.

    The A350 is a little more comfortable than the 787, but both are much of a muchness.

  10. Depending on operational needs, they could split this order between 787’s in the near term and the proposed 797, should such come to fruition, which would be available for delivery around 2025. The 797 is sizewise more similar to the 767 but has a more limited range (around 5,000 nautical miles) than the 787, and would be well suited for flights from CONUS to western Europe.

  11. As much as I love the United 787s, even in Economy, I hope they get some A330s for the 2-4-2 seating. Much better for couples in Coach; no chance of sitting beside a stranger

  12. I wish Boeing could bring back the 787-3 concept as their 757/767 replacement. Meanwhile, when flying back in the economy, the 2-4-2 configuration on 330 is definitely better than the 3-3-3 on 787.

  13. i don’t know what’s holding back Boeing from actually launching the 797-MoM. Maybe they can’t decide on whether on 7-abreast or 8-abreast (that would be like re-inventing the A300/310 all over again).

    But whatever they do, PLEASE don’t optimize the fuselage for 7.5 seats. That’s just 8 narrow chairs for not-so-narrow Americans

  14. The problem is that what United needs is a 76 replacement. The 76 is optimized for transatlantic flying and thought the 78 can be configured passenger count size the 78 is an airplane built for longer distances that what American Airlines and in turn United Airlines will use it for. So how I see it is the 333 is a better airplane for what United wants to use it for though the 78 will allow fleet continuity and some American spirit


  15. Agreed. Unless United finally moves to limit their claustrophobic First Class sections (in 787 case, 6 abrest), it is irrelevant how many 787s they have.

  16. @Roberto – what UA really missed out on was the 777-300. Pre-merger UA could have really benefited from a low-CASM people mover from ORD and IAD to Europe (really just ORD/IAD-FRA/LHR) which the 773 excels at.

    I personally believe that they will go with a mix of 787-8/9 (fleet commonality) and 797 MOM (fits the mission profile where a 787 is overkill, eg Europe and South America)

  17. @ZI
    The 787-10 is basically the -3 with longer range and a common wing with the -8s/-9s. If any airline wanted to, i suspect Boeing could be make a reduced MTOW variant for lower operating costs much like what SIA did with their 777-200ER and are doing soon to their A350 Regionals, or the A330 regional that Saudia is taking delivery of.

  18. Another PR stint on UA side! As if you believe they will buy Airbus A330 ? I want to see those A350 they ordered first or did UA entirely ditched their order. They just want PR inorder to preassure Boeing to push the price down!
    Get the Polaris product working properly in you entire fleet and lounges before thinking on buying new planes!

  19. LOL, well they DO have A350-900s on order – so I kinda wish they WOULD get the 330neo since I believe they’re type rated the same and also to keep future 787 prices in-check.

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