United Airlines made major news with an order for 50 new Airbus A321XLR aircraft. After this order, it appeared that the airline had made its choice when it came to replacing aging Boeing 757s and is not in need of any more midsize, long-range aircraft. However, United now says that Boeing’s new midsize airplane (NMA) is not out of the picture yet.
United could still order the Boeing NMA
Flightglobal reports that United has not yet ruled out the Boeing NMA and, when asked, said:
Boeing currently does not have an aircraft equivalent to the A321XLR to meet our specific operational needs. We will take a look at the NMA.
Why this makes no sense for United Airlines
United Airlines states that the airline currently has 75 Boeing 757 aircraft in operation. The smaller 757-200s are due to be replaced on a near 1-to-1 basis with Airbus A321XLR aircraft per the airline’s order.
While long-haul narrowbody operations have some great advantages, there are limits to how much United can do with two sets of aircraft filling, arguably, the same niche. Although United needs a replacement for the 757-300, United does have 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft on order as well. These aircraft, if the 737 MAX 10s do receive lie-flats, replace some of the 757 routes while also representing a bit of a premium product upgrade for the 757-300.
So, United has the 757 pretty much catered for in terms of replacement. Which is why it makes no sense that United would still consider the NMA. In terms of Boeing 767 aircraft, United is still anticipating additional 787 aircraft and could definitely tack on additional 787 orders to cover the 767s. So, United really has a very minimal need for the NMA and it would occupy a relatively insignificant chunk of United’s fleet.
Why this makes perfect sense for United
With only two major aircraft manufacturers in existence (for now), airlines have to walk a fine line between remaining in each manufacturer’s good graces while also getting the best deal possible. So, for United to say the airline is still considering the NMA does not commit the airline to order for the aircraft, but could keep Boeing happy for now. And, if United’s new management team develops a new vision for the airline, who knows, maybe the NMA could fill in a very interesting niche with United.
Overall, it is always good for an airline to keep its options open for further fleet development. Not to mention, the overall economy could change towards an increase in long-haul narrowbody flights. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in the airline industry.
Do you think United Airlines should order the Boeing NMA? Let us know in the comments!