Hmm: United Airlines Orders More Boeing 737 MAXs

Filed Under: United

Customers have spoken and United Airlines has listened. Customers have overwhelmingly been requesting more flights on the Boeing 737 MAX, and as a result United has not only increased its 737 MAX order, but also moved forward the delivery timeline, so that more passengers can enjoy these planes sooner.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t quite the motivation for this announcement. 😉

United orders more 737 MAXs, moves forward timeline

United Airlines has just increased its firm commitment for the Boeing 737 MAX from 163 planes to 188 planes. With this:

  • United Airlines has ordered an additional 25 Boeing 737 MAXs, to be delivered in 2023
  • Not only that, but United Airlines has moved forward the delivery timeline of existing 737 MAX orders — five additional 737 MAXs will be delivered in 2021 (for a total of 21 to be delivered this year), and 40 737 MAXs will be delivered in 2022, in addition to the 127 737 MAXs coming in 2023 and later

United Airlines has ordered both the 737 MAX 9 and 737 MAX 10, though we don’t know the breakdown by type of the additional 737 MAX orders. I’d guess the orders that have been moved forward are for the 737 MAX 9, since the Boeing 737 MAX 10 program has been delayed to 2023.

United may eventually use some of its 737 MAX 10 aircraft for premium transcon flights, in which case these planes would get flat beds.

United has quite a few 737 MAX 10s on order

This isn’t surprising, but is kind of ironic

The 737 MAX has finally been recertified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), so the plane is back in the US skies. Presumably Boeing is offering any airline a heck of a deal if it will either order 737 MAXs, or take delivery of them sooner:

  • Not only have a lot of airlines and consumers lost confidence in the plane, but airlines are also trying to delay delivery of planes as much as possible in light of reduced travel demand
  • Several airlines have gone out of business or canceled their 737 MAX orders, meaning there are quite a few planes ready to go; on top of that, Chinese authorities still haven’t approved the 737 MAX, so Boeing has a surplus of these planes
  • In general Boeing likes the publicity of airlines ordering more 737 MAXs, hoping it will create more demand among other airlines over time

But that also gets at the irony of this, on a couple of levels:

  • United Airlines has just received billions of dollars in taxpayer support, and even if the airline is getting a heck of a deal with favorable terms one has to wonder how exactly the airline can afford these at this point; this all comes as the airline asks for a third round of government support
  • Unlike American and Delta, United hasn’t announced plans to retire a large portion of its fleet; while the airline will eventually have to renew its fleet, ironically the carrier’s fleet could be significantly bigger within a year than it is now

Will United retire some of its existing 737s?

Bottom line

United Airlines has not only increased its 737 MAX order, but has also moved forward delivery of dozens of these planes, with the airline now getting additional 737 MAXs in both 2021 and 2022.

I’ll be curious to see what the 737 MAX situation means for United’s future narrow body fleet plans. Presumably the airline will eventually retire current generation 737s in favor of MAXs, but immediate plans haven’t yet been announced for that.

What do you make of United’s Boeing 737 MAX order and timeline changes?

  1. It’s always a good deal to buy at a deep discount. Opportunities like this only come along every couple of decades or so. It’s probably a buy now pay later contract.

  2. In other MAX news, Alaska Airlines first MAX flight was this morning, a flight from Seattle to San Diego.

  3. “Unlike American and Delta, United hasn’t ANNOUNCED plans to retire a large portion of its fleet; while the airline will eventually have to renew its fleet, ironically the carrier’s fleet could be significantly bigger within a year than it is now”

    ANNOUNCED being the operative word.

  4. United’s average fleet age is now handedly older than any other US airline. Their domestic fleet in particular has had little focus while they have bought scores of new widebodies over the past 5 years.
    And the engine explosion could well lead to the grounding of a chunk of their 777s, esp. the -200s, if repairs become too expensive or take too long.

    Even within the US, United is flying the lowest percentage of flights on a year over year basis than any of the other big 4.

  5. @Ben: After reading your first paragraph, I had to check the calendar to make sure today is March 1, not April 1:-)

  6. We do forget how operationally efficient these planes are. All the points/miles crowd talks about is the crashes from two budget airlines with non-qualified pilots and of course AA’s project “oasis” but we forget how much better flying a Max is on Southwest and how good these planes are to the bottom lines of United with the fuel savings, seat density and massive overhead space speeding up boarding. That combined with the huge savings i bet UA is getting on this order it makes a ton of sense for them to do this.

  7. Doesn’t matter to me. I prefer to fly Airbus narrowbodies to 737s.

    The 737s have such weak air flow that it’s hard to get proper cooling and ventilation.
    The A320 family is more comfortable, especially since those planes have proper airflow through the overhead nozzles/gaspers.

  8. The 737MAX is a garbage aircraft to fly – or to be a passenger in. It’s vastly inferior to the A320 series, it’s ungainly, and it’s fuselage diameter is the same as it was when the original 737 series was flying in 1967. That’s back when the Rolling Stones were young, MLK was alive, LBJ was president, and the team now in Oakland was known as the Kansas City A’s. Yes, it was a long time ago folks. But, at least in 1967, the passengers aboard those aircraft were accommodated with appropriate legroom and plenty of service for what would have been a flight of 2 hours or less.

    Now, we’re crammed into seats with knee crushing 29 and 30 inch pitch configurations, with so many of them crammed in that there’s barely room for a conveyance where pax can go and relieve themselves. And, far from it’s original concept, this thing is flying segments lasting over SIX hours. The MAX is the culmination of high-altitude torture: and Ryanair is actually the one who has won the race by introducing a version of the MAX that’s so horrible that it will be like spending your flight in federal prison, only far more uncomfortable because international treaties limit what you can do to a prisoner.

    As for UA doing this, I know they’re bargain hunting. I get it. But the prospect of being stuck on that crowded piece of underperforming excrement for several hours has me (with US status) looking into alternatives, such as DL.

  9. I wouldn’t say airlines have lost confidence in the MAX. Evidently as it’s received over 100 orders since RTS. Before the pandemic cancellations were minimal. Pandemic escalated to conserve cash and it was easy to pull out of the deal. Airlines love the max and there isn’t an operator that will tell you they don’t.

  10. @stogieguy7 you can join the heap of people with the same opinion. At the end of the day nobody cares the load factors are the same whether you fly or you don’t

  11. @Opuada: I can’t argue this, the airlines don’t really care. This thing is cheap and it can make them a lot of money. The fact that the passengers will be more uncomfortable is immaterial, especially if almost every domestic airline is doing it. But you can’t argue with me that this is some fine aircraft that I shouldn’t dare criticize. It’s a POS and we both know it. The A320 series outclasses it in every way and we both know it.

    And I say this having grown up watching the Airport movies that praised Boeing as making the best of the best – and I always believed it…until recently.

  12. After not get upgraded or getting one of the super exit rows in the AA a321 i can now say i wont hate the MAX despite project “oasis” the a321 was the most uncomfortable seat ive been in, I love it when flying in those double exit rows but in regular economy there is no pitch and no underseat storage because of the massive IFE box on the ground that blocks all backpack space. I prefer IFEs to no but the max can be worse than the 321 and at least you can take off on time where on the 320s everyone crowds and fights for overhead space then the agents have to bag check and boarding takes forever.

  13. @neil

    Yes, I thought the exact same thing. I went, huh.. United wants to buy more. Even at a discount it is still strange.

  14. @ steve cc
    How could anyone class Ethiopian Airlines as a Budget airline? & how is the captain with over 4000 command hours in the 737 “unqualified”??? Oh yes your flawed logic was that Southwest/ American Airlines pilots operated the max without crashing them,so they are “real pilots”!
    So using your logic does it mean ,for example that when The American Airlines A300-600R crashed in NY In 2001,since no other operator had crashed that Aircraft type, that the pilots were “unqualified ” too ???

  15. There is nothing particularly strange about United ordering more 737 MAX aircraft, especially at the “higher end,” i.e. the MAX 9 and MAX 10.

    The existing fleet of very old, pre-merger United 757-200 aircraft used for transcon premium flights have pretty much all been retired over the last year. The pre-merger Continental 757-200 fleet used for some transcon premium flight as well as short transatlantic flights simply don’t measure up to anybody’s standards of “premium” in any sense whatsoever and at their age, are not worth upgrading to United’s Polaris type configuration. There are only 21 remaining 757-300 aircraft, 12 of which were acquired by pre-merger Continental from ATA; they aren’t worth updating and the fleet size is too small to offer flexibility in terms of route and service levels.

    For better or worse Boeing’s management never got their act together for the rumored 757 replacement, possibly a single-aisled version of the 787 (often referred to in the press as the 797). United had to do something to replace the 757 fleet as well as older non-MAX 737s.

    United ordered a gaggle of Airbus A321XLR aircraft in December 2019, presumably to replace the 757-200 aircraft used for shorter and possibly now some longer transatlantic flights (and hopefully some premium transcontinental service as well). Hopefully those will be fitted out with the Polaris business class product as well as premium economy. I see the new MAX 9 and 10 as a replacement for the remaining 757 domestic aircraft, especially the 757-300, for which no previous 737 could match their capacity. I think that many of us are waiting to see how United will actually configure the MAX 10 before passing judgement!

  16. @stogieguy7
    Blame the airlines, not the MAX. FlyDubai has MAXs with lie flat seats. As for the a320; EasyJet operate 6 hour flights in an all economy configuration with knee crushing leg room and no seat back entertainment. As for the history of the airframe; it’s a proven aircraft, and is it really worth the extra cost and investment for that extra 10 inches that Airbus has. But how much does it really matter? Cause ultimately, you’ll most likely vote with your wallet…
    Personally, an extra inch in seat width isn’t worth changing my airline loyalty; but that’s just me.

  17. “crashes from two budget airlines with non-qualified pilots”

    Kind of hard to take the rest of what you say seriously after this. Clearly you know nothing about Ethiopian.

    And what was the last 18 months about if it was just pilot error?

  18. This is awful news… Yeah, what exactly is it that the customers supposedly score UA’s 737 “high” on – the narrower fuselage?… the tiny lavs?… the lack of IFE?…

    Yes, I’m sure UA got a bargain deal. But the corner-cutting seems so short-sighted.

  19. The comment from steve cc can be translated to say that only U.S. pilots are qualified and only U.S. carriers offer superior product. Let me go grab some water to control that coughing spasm I’m having right about now.

  20. There is a long and storied past to Boeing and United Airlines. William Boeing helped start a number of fledgling airlines on the Pacific coast to provide a market for the airplanes that he was building. At some point, he consolidated, or “Untied” them all to become…yes you guessed it. Later on the U.S. Government deemed this a bit too vertically integrated and forced separation of the airplane manufacturer and the airline under anti-trust laws.

  21. “Customers have overwhelmingly been requesting more flights on the Boeing 737 MAX ….”

    Really? I haven’t flown a MAX yet, so I don’t have an opinion. But with so few MAX flights since re-certification, and with all I have read about how cramped the seat configurations are, I would be very interested in hearing more about the “overwhelming” passenger requests for more 737 MAX flights.

    In my experience, I am almost always pleasantly surprised/relieved when I get a flight with an older aircraft and the old seats are actually COMFORTABLE and comparably roomy. It makes me realize what we’re missing with the new planes today.

  22. @A-Number-of-You!

    You need to seriously separate the issue of the basic airframe from the feature comforts in new aircraft.

    Seat width, seat pitch (inter-row spacing), in flight entertainment, air flow, lavatory size, etc. are all options of the airline itself, not basic characteristics of Boeing or Airbus aircraft. If a particular airline, whether it be United, American, Fly-By-Night, etc. chooses to configure a plane like a cattle car, that is what they will do whether the base is a 737 MAX or an Airbus 321LXR.

    Thus, what you should be really complaining about is how the airlines are literally squeezing the passengers with their own configuration decisions, not whether those decisions are applied to Boeing or Airbus.

  23. @Dov Isaacs – except for the fact that Boeing has a narrower fuselage than Airbus, so you can’t fit as wide seats with the equivalent seat configuration.

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