United Orders More 787-9 Dreamliners For Expansion

United Airlines has just announced it’s ordered more 787-9 Dreamliners from Boeing, on top of those already purchased. This move is part of United’s push to replace its last-generation fleet of widebodies and dramatically bring down the current fleet age. Presently, United operates a fleet of twenty-five 787-9s and 12 smaller 787-8s. These are used on a range of routes including the transcontinental US coast to coat lines. United have been forthcoming in telling investors it intends to expand this fleet. But is this move a safety-net measure, to fill existing demand or do United have growth in mind?

Untied’s latest Boeing order

On Monday, United told us it has just ordered nine more 787-9 Dreamliners. These are earmarked to replace its existing, operational models such as the Boeing 767-400ER and 777-200. This means, its total order with Boeing for the 787s is now, 14 Dreamliner 787-10s and nine 787-9s. It is presumed the 787-9s will be part of the replacement drive. The 787-10s however are part of a subtle expansion.

In January of next year, the airline plans to become the first North American airline to fly the largest Dreamliner the 787-10, transcontinental. These 787-10s will join United’s fleet flying its “Premium transcontinental service” from Newark to California. As the Dash 10 is essentially a stretched out version of the shorter 787-8 and 787-9, it has several advantages. It offers more seats, better fuel efficiency per passenger and of course more of that revenue generating cargo. So United won’t have to add routes or slots to get increased passenger numbers and revenue.

united 787-10
United 787-10 routes Newark to LAX and SFO

More revenue over the same slots

However, although larger than the -9 and -8 Dreamliners, the -10s have a shorter maximum flight range. This is to be expected, being the same plane, just heavier, with more passengers and cargo. So the Dash 10 as United say, can do “up to 6,430 nautical miles.” And while this isn’t an issue on the coast-to-coast route, it does this throw light on the importance of the additional order of 787-9s.

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The 787-9s make up the mainstay of United’s service and fleet. United has a fleet of around 50 Boeing widebodies. And they are very well used. However, they are also the oldest model United flies. According to Airfleets.net, United’s 787-9s have an average age of about 21 years.

Bearing this in mind, the new order doesn’t necessarily mean United are looking to expand but it certainly intends to expand its 787-9 fleet. The aircraft has served United well and the airline are smart to get their orders in now. Safeguarding their future operational capacity.

What did United pay for its new 787-9s?

According to Boeing’s list prices, the firm order will come in at $2.53 billion. But when you’re talking 2+ billion dollars, for buyers like United, there will be some wiggle room. The Puget Sound Business Journal claims this could be a discount of up to 50 percent. And this figure is supported by the jet valuation firm Avitas. It puts the real value of this deal at about $1.3 billion. Still, hardly loose change for the airline.

All in all, By the start of the new year, United will have 40 787s in operation and 24 on order.

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