Key Points:

  • United Airlines orders 110 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus set for delivery from 2028 onward to fortify its international network.

  • Amid supply-chain setbacks and infrastructural bottlenecks, United redefines its flight strategy and anticipates growth in global long-haul flying.

  • United's recent order aligns with industry trends, showcasing increased demand for long-distance and narrowbody jets.

United Airlines Bolsters its Fleet for International Expansion

CHICAGO —In a recent announcement, Chicago's United Airlines disclosed an order of 110 aircraft from aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus, with deliveries commencing in 2028. This strategic move is designed to strengthen the airline's international routes and counter the prevalent supply-chain interruptions, which have been a hurdle in timely aircraft deliveries and affected overall flight operations.

Specifics of the order reveal that United will solidify its purchase agreements for 50 Boeing 787-9s expected between 2028 and 2031, and 60 Airbus A321neos slated for 2028 to 2030 delivery. This decision comes on the heels of information that Reuters released earlier. Additionally, United has secured options for 50 more 787s and rights to procure an extra 40 A321neo jets as the decade concludes.

Rising Demand for Long-distance and Larger Narrowbody Jets

Recent trends highlight a surge in orders for long-distance widebody aircraft, catering to escalating international travel requirements. For instance, last month saw Air Canada acquiring 18 Dreamliners, while Air France-KLM finalized an order for 50 Airbus A350s. Particularly, larger models like the A321 have witnessed substantial demand, capturing a significant share of the single-aisle market.

United, among American carriers, derives approximately 39% of its passenger revenue this year from higher-margin international travel, a rise from pre-pandemic levels. "Our vision for the latter half of this decade revolves around an augmented global long-haul flight service," remarked United's Chief Commercial Officer, Andrew Nocella.

Gearing up for Global Growth and Overcoming Challenges

Following a significant order in the previous year, which included 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 100 737 MAXs, United continues to display unwavering faith in Boeing's offerings. Stan Deal, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, expressed, “This continued alliance with the 787 Dreamliner exemplifies the unmatched efficiency and reliability of Boeing’s jets.”

While Christian Scherer, Airbus' Chief Commercial Officer, opined that the A321, with its eco-friendly profile and cost-efficiency, will redefine United's operational landscape.

However, it's not smooth sailing for airlines. The accumulation of Boeing and Airbus orders, coupled with extended jet delivery timelines, has intensified the urgency for carriers. These delays have been a cause for frustration, as noted by Nocella. Compounding these issues are constraints related to runways, airspace, and airport gate capacity, prompting airlines to reduce take-offs.

To navigate these obstacles, United plans to deploy larger aircraft with increased seating capacities. The expectation is for average seat count per North American departure to rise by 40% by 2027, compared to the numbers before the pandemic.

United’s Vision and Stakeholder Assurance

Nocella also shed light on the airline's order for 45 Airbus A350s, previously postponed to at least 2030. Despite no change in the order and acknowledging the A350's potential, United's immediate focus is the 787 fleet, which will replace Boeing's 767 routes.

As uncertainties loom over travel demand due to fluctuating pricing power in the U.S. market and potential economic downturns, Nocella assures investors of United's commitment to its long-term profitability objectives.