United Airlines Looks To Airbus For Boeing 757 Replacement

United Airlines is looking to Airbus for a replacement option for its aging Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. As a matter of fact, the carrier is reportedly considering the purchase of Airbus A321XLRs.

United Airlines Boeing 757
The average age of United Airlines’ Boeing 757-200s is 23 years. Photo: Wikimedia.

What are the details?

At present, United Airlines has 76 Boeing 757 aircraft and 54 Boeing 767 aircraft in its fleet. The carrier will replace most of these aircraft with Boeing 787s and Boeing 737 MAXs.

Based on data provided by Fleets Analyzer, United has already placed orders for the following aircraft:

  • 45 Boeing 737 MAX 9s,
  • 100 Boeing 737-10s,
  • 4 Boeing 777-300ERs,
  • 13 Boeing 787-9s,
  • 7 Boeing 787-10s, and
  • 45 Airbus A350-900s.
United Airlines Boeing 767
United Airlines currently has 54 Boeing 767s in its fleet. Photo: Wikimedia.

According to Flight Global, United Airlines’ President Scott Kirby told employees, during a town hall meeting at the end of last month, that the airline will need to purchase 30-40 mid-size aircraft to replace some of its 757s and 767s. United Airlines would like to take delivery of the aircraft starting in the mid-2020s.

More specifically, Scott Kirby said that United Airlines “feel[s] really good about the bulk of the narrowbody, the bulk of the widebody fleet. That 30 to 40 airplanes for 757, 767 replacements we don’t have a good answer for.”

The Airbus A321XLR

This is exactly where the Airbus A321XLR comes into play. The aircraft would be a great addition to United Airlines’ fleet.

The A321XLR is expected to carry about 250 passengers and have a range of 4,700 nm. It will basically be a longer-range version of the Airbus A321LR. Accordingly, United Airlines could operate the aircraft on routes between the East Coast of the United States and Europe.

Furthermore, the aircraft will be highly fuel efficient and feature the latest technology. All these are great selling points.

Airbus A321LR
The Airbus A321LR is a new variant of the Airbus A321neo. Photo: Airbus.

Airbus has not officially announced that it will build the A321XLR. Nonetheless, several airlines have already placed orders for the aircraft in case Airbus does indeed build it.

According to Reuters, Airbus would like to have “200-300 draft orders before committing to build” the aircraft. An order of 30-40 aircraft from United Airlines would definitely help boost the numbers and bring the Airbus A321XLR a step closer to reality.

Boeing’s new midsize airplane

United Airlines had originally indicated that it was interested in Boeing’s new midsize airplane as a potential replacement for its 757s and 767s. Boeing was expected to officially introduce the aircraft at this year’s Paris Air Show. However, the manufacturer has decided to delay the announcement regarding the aircraft to 2020.

Accordingly, at this time the Airbus A321XLR appears to be a more viable option than Boeing’s new midsize airplane.

Do you think that the Airbus A321XLR is a good replacement option for United Airlines’ Boeing 757s?

16 comments
  1. Unfortunately I doubt that Boeing will have the drive to produce the 757 replacement now that the 737 Max is in turmoil. What a shame.

    1. I don’t believe that both are that much connected. It might even be the opportunity for Boeing to come up with a new design of airframe covering the B737-B757 segment much quicker than initially planed.
      With the Embraer fleet being integrated in Boeing portfolio, the new single aisle aircraft should have more capacity than the B737 today.

      If we look at the B737-MAX situation, it is not keeping busy ALL the engineers.
      Far from that. They are defining a new strategy for keeping the aircraft secure against stalling which is more likely to happen due to the change of position of the reactors. This will include programmers (in-house, outsourced), and some engineers to include maybe more than the second optional Angle of Attack sensor…
      Is it really threatening the B757 replacement? Short term it might affect it. However on the long term, there is a demand in that segment. And a new aircraft designed for it will be interesting for many airlines.
      This aircraft will be ideal for connections between the Middle-East and Europe, Europe-Africa, Europe Asia, Africa-Asia, North America coasts, Transatlantic flights, Hawaii, Australia (that might even come up with the B797 to replace the B737)…
      So I’m convinced that it will happen. The decision to develop it will be formally made once the costs of the “Max case” will be known, and once the financial situation of the company will be reassessed.
      But not investing into the future would be a mistake, and it would open a boulevard to Airbus to increase their market share in larger airplanes !

  2. The A321XLR is expected to carry about 250 passengers and have a range of 4,700 nm. It will basically be a longer-range version of the Airbus A321″LR?”.

  3. Boeing bowed to pressure from SWA when it decided to drop the 757 series for a stretched 737. Bad decision. The 75/76 is easier to fly, has a more robust airframe and is FAR more intuitive to operate than the Airbus. Further, the A321 is comparatively underpowered and ends up seat blocking out of high/hot destinations. I have type-ratings in all 3.

    1. @JDCooper

      The PW1135G-JM engine on the A321LR has been designed to deliver 35,000 lbf of thrust at take-off. With a MTOW of 97,000 kg (213,848 lb) for the A321LR, the thrust-to-weight ratio is 0.327

      In contrast, the 787-9 has a MTOW of 254,011 kg (560,000 lb) and engines that deliver 71,000 lbf of thrust at take-off; or a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.254

      Thus, the A321LR is not underpowered. In fact, it’s got one of the highest thrust-to-weight ratios of any civilian airliner. If anything, it’s very under-winged for take-offs at MTOW. That’s why the A321ceo/A321neo/A321LR require such a high thrust-to-weight ratio. However, it’s important to note that the sharklets that were first introduced on the A320ceo have significantly improved the take-off performance of all A32X versions (i.e. A32Xceo/A32Xneo/A321LR)

      It’s quite surprising, though, that someone who claims to have a type-rating on the A321 seems to be somewhat confused and unable to differentiate between the terms “underpowered” and “under-winged”.

    2. Wait… Boeing just answered a market need.
      There is quite a gap between the B737-900 and the B757. Obviously, airlines have an interest in operating the B737 in combination with the B757 in order to adjust the offer to the demand.
      Plus, when you say more intuitive to operate regarding Boeing, you probably mean from a pilot perspective. But from an airline industry, it is not more or less intuitive to go for Airbus or Boeing. And obviously, we see today that the strategy adopted by Airbus which rely heavily on computer flying skills work well if well designed !

      And in your situation, you forget several elements. Your perspective is the one of the user.
      However, airlines are only interested in the financial results. “Overpowered” aircrafts are more costly to operate. The number of airlines or locations needing that level of thrust is low. Therefore manufacturers such as Airbus, RR, PW want to offer the most optimal solution to the biggest share of the market. So this is just “normal”, and Boeing does the same.
      We need to say though that the A320 NEO family is better powered now. And the A319 NEO’s niche is the high/hot destinations.

      Just one question, what do you mean by “far more robust airframe”?

    3. “Boeing bowed to pressure from SWA when it decided to drop the 757 series for a stretched 737.”

      Not calling you a liar, but am just curious – what’s your source for this? Would like to learn more.

      If it’s true, it’s like having a hillbilly dictate the next 911 to Porsche.

  4. The grounding of the seriously FUBARed MAX now appears to be turning into an existential threat to Boeing’s worldwide competitiveness in the single aisle market. With the increasing likelihood of a significant number of non-U.S. airlines being on the cusp of abandoning the MAX altogether and the increasing possibility of an increasing number of airline travelers worldwide choosing not to fly on any MAX aircraft in the future, I’m not sure if Boeing will be in a healthy enough position to launch a New Midsize Airplane (NMA) programme, going forward. Instead, it looks increasingly likely that Boeing will be forced to launch a New Single Aisle (NSA) programme (ASAP) — and prematurely replacing the MAX — as the single aisle market is much much bigger than the Boeing-defined Middle of the Market (MOM).

  5. You won’t get a plane (A321xlr) that can seat 250 and fly 4700 nm.
    The max passengers will be about 230, but this would be at very tight seat pitch, maybe 29″.
    A flight of 4700nm would take 9.5-10 hours and there is no way you could tolerate that time in those seats.
    It will be more like 170-200 seats for the long flights so you can get at least 32″ seat pitch, and a few premium economy, etc.
    It is still very impressive, though – well done airbus, (Assuming it happens).

    1. It will probably happen, as well as the A320 PLUS which is attacking part of the segment where Airbus is “weaker” than Boeing.
      Boeing offers 3 aircraft between 39.5m and 43.8 m long airframe.
      Airbus however has a gap between the A320 (37.57m) and the A321 (44.51 m). This gap made them lose some important clients. Ryanair went for Boeing because they have the aircraft that matches their strategy.
      And just look at the number!
      B737-MAX 8, 2704 orders out of 5012 MAX orders. And among the 5012 orders, it seems that for 1439 of them, the type is unknown.

      So when I see this, I’m wondering if Airbus would have killed the B737 MAX by developing first the A320 plus before the A319.
      However, I like the situation about Airbus and Boeing. Instead of systematically going with a frontal strategy they approach clients with alternative solutions, with complementary products satisfying a major part of the market, and probably also being quite a good duopoly for both manufacturers.

  6. James: Air Transat flew L1011s transatlantic with a 29″ seat pitch, so there are precedents. However, I agree that it’s a hellish ordeal. Even with a generous seat pitch, it’s unpleasant to spend 6+ hours in a narrowbody…

    1. For the A321XLR, Airbus should stretch the A321 frame another 13.5 feet adding five more rows (i.e., 30 seats) and you easily have an aircraft that can fly 230 pax 4,700 nm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reccomended Stories: