United Airlines places mega-order for 270 Boeing and Airbus planes

The American company is betting on a solid recovery in air transport. This is the biggest order in its history.

The American company United Airlines is banking on a solid recovery in air transport and, to prepare for it, renews its fleet by placing the largest order in its history on Tuesday: 200 Boeing 737 MAX and 70 Airbus A321neo.

The violent air gap in air traffic at the height of the pandemic has not yet completely subsided. But the transport of tourists is already “practically“Returned to its level before the pandemic, assured the general manager of United, Scott Kirby. The recovery in business travel, still down by 60%, “should really pick up in the fall, when the kids go back to school“, He assured.

International travel is slower to come back but next summer, “we could see records on transatlantic flightsMr. Kirby predicted, not seeming to be concerned about the rise of Covid-19 variants. United is still focusing for the moment on single-aisle planes, used mainly on domestic flights.

In detail, the company plans to buy from Boeing 50 737 MAX 8 planes as well as 150 examples of the 737 MAX 10, the largest of this family. It also plans to buy from Airbus 70 A321neo, the “blockbuster»From the European manufacturer in the single-aisle segment with more than 200 seats. This represents a purchase of 35.38 billion dollars at the theoretical price of the devices, even if the companies still benefit in fact from discounts.

For Scott Hamilton, of the specialized site Leeham News, the scale of the order is a little surprising. It is possible that United Airlines wanted to take advantage of the discounts that Boeing is currently granting to boost its order book after the setbacks of the 737 MAX, he argues.

More room for luggage

By signing a contract with the European manufacturer, the company may want “competition between Airbus and Boeing to better negotiate future dealsHe adds. The company is in any case increasing the list of its purchases to more than 500 devices, of which 40 will be delivered in 2022, 138 in 2023 and more than 350 in 2024 and later.

The arrival of all these planes will allow United to increase the number of seats available on its flights in North America by about 30% by 2026, with a focus on the more lucrative business and business class categories. Choosing larger single aisles also allows United to increase its capacity to airports where it has become difficult to add flights, such as San Francisco.

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

The company, as part of a broader strategy called “United Next“, Transforms the interior of its devices at the same time: all passengers will have a screen on the seat in front of them and a faster internet, assures United. The company has also planned larger baggage compartments, which should reduce the anxiety of passengers worried about potentially having to put their suitcase in the hold, as well as the time required for boarding. These changes will also be made by 2025 on all single lanes already in United’s fleet.

The replacement of an aging fleet made up of small aircraft by planes that are more energy efficient and fewer in number, since they are bigger, will make it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% to 20% per seat, highlights before United. The announcement of such an order after a difficult year for the companies does not really surprise Richard Aboulafia, specialist in the aeronautics sector at Teal Group.

«Domestic aviation markets are currently recovering fairly quickly, along with fuel prices», He emphasizes; it is therefore the right time to order single-lane systems, which consume less. Especially since it is currently easy to borrow money at very low interest rates, he adds.

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