Rumor: Blockbuster United Airlines Aircraft Order Next Week

Chicago-based United Airlines is reportedly about to announce a record-breaking aircraft order. Industry insiders tip United Airlines will confirm next week during an investor update. Sources are suggesting this may be the largest aircraft order ever.

A record-breaking aircraft order from United is reportedly imminent. Photo: United Airlines

United Airlines order poised to eclipse previous big aircraft orders

In terms of aircraft numbers, the biggest order to date is American’s 2011 order for 460 planes. According to Forbes, that order comprised 260 single-aisle Airbus aircraft and 200 single-aisle Boeing planes.

In dollar terms, Emirates tops the list with its US$76 billion 2013 deal for 150 yet-to-be-delivered Boeing 777X aircraft. That order has since been altered, but its blockbuster status stands. Now, strong rumors circulate that United is about to topple one or both of these records.

Earlier this month, Simple Flying reported United was finalizing talks with Boeing for at least 100 Boeing 737 MAX planes. The airline was also in talks with Airbus. Sources close to the talks said some tasty deals from the plane builders were on offer.

Around the same time, CNBC reported United was eyeing buying 100 737 MAX 8 jets and dozens of Airbus A321 neo aircraft in a total order set to comprise approximately 200 planes.

Reports suggest United is eyeing up to 200 new planes. Photo: Boeing

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An opportunity to refresh United’s fleet

United Airlines has bet big on the MAX. The airline already has 30 Boeing 737 MAX 9s in the air and is awaiting 181 previously ordered MAXs. The ordered MAXs include 40 MAX 8s, 49 MAX 9s, and 92 MAX 10s.

The A321neos shape up as a good replacement for United’s fleet of aging Boeing 757s. United Airlines still has 72 of the now out-of-production planes. The A321neo has a comparable size and range to the Boeing 757.

Boosted by relatively youthful Boeing 787s, United’s long-haul international fleet is in decent shape. But many of its single-aisle planes, the workhorses of United’s North American flying, are getting old and lagging average ages at competitor airlines. The influx of MAXs is designed to rectify this.

Forbes cites unnamed sources close to the deal, saying the rumored order is likely to be the biggest ever. They say the announcement is imminent. Next Tuesday’s investor’s update is flagged as a probable time. United Airlines is also holding a media event at Newark on the same day.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Getty Images

United Airlines sticks to growth as its flies out of the downturn

While Boeing and Airbus are likely to have offered some sweet deals to United, the order is a big sign of confidence in aviation’s future from United Airlines. As the airline navigates its way out of the travel downturn, it has paid considerable attention to its rejigging fleet.

In an interview in March, the United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said he’d used the travel downturn as an opportunity to “reset the airline.” Kirby said the airline was in growth mode before the downturn. While competitor airlines have since decided to downsize, curb growth plans, and cut aircraft orders, United has decided to ramp up its growth strategy.

“We’re going to take delivery of more planes, narrowbody planes for domestic growth in 2022 and 2023 than we ever have. Ninety-four aircraft are coming. Compare that 94 aircraft to the fleet size of some of those other airlines, and that’ll give you a scale of what we’re planning to do.

“When times are tough, the other network carriers push back from the table and leave the scraps for the low-cost carriers. I can promise you, United Airlines is not doing that.”