Reports emerged on June 29, 2021, that United Airlines has agreed to an order of 270 new aircraft. The company will receive planes from both Airbus and Boeing as part of a long-term fleet plan to increase its premium seating and reduce the use of 50-seat regional aircraft, according to an official statement from the airline.
The new order features 150 Boeing 737 Max 10 aircraft and 50 737 Max 8 aircraft. Also, the company is set to receive 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft. Adding onto its previous orders, United now has over 500 new narrow-body aircraft on the way, comprising of 40 that will get introduced in 2022 and 138 in 2023.
During a media call on Monday, United EVP and chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella mentioned:
“It’s a nose-to-tail plan for the future that we’ve been working on for many years. We’re building an airline that can compete with anyone across a range of product types.”
The move to initiate a fleet overhaul will increase the total seats per departure by nearly 30%, which is an average of 30 seats per flight, on North American flights by 2026. It will eventually boost premium seating availability.
Notably, the bigger Max 10 aircraft, which United plans to introduce in early 2023, will have 20 United First and 64 Economy Plus seats. On the other hand, the Max 8 aircraft includes 16 United First and 54 Economy Plus seats. The A321neo aircraft will start service in 2023 and will have premium seating similar to that of the Max 10 aircraft, according to an official United Airlines statement.
Nocella said that economy seating will not get tighter on the new aircraft. He said:
“This is not an opportunity for United to densify our aircraft. We’re keeping the same comfort standards we have today.”
As the company adds new aircraft, it plans to retire older mainline jets and nearly 200 single-class regional jets. While the 50-seat regional aircraft will still be used to serve the smaller markets, Nocella stated:
“we will no longer use them to fly to large communities.”
By having the bigger aircraft in its narrowbody fleet, United also aims to add capacity in markets where runway constraints make it challenging to add more flights, mainly San Francisco and Newark. The Max 10 aircraft will mainly serve these airports.
Coming in with better fuel efficiency and aerodynamics that are superior to the older fleet, the new aircraft will reduce carbon emissions per seat up to 15% by 2026, according to the airline.
Furthermore, the new aircraft will consist of bigger overhead bins that can house one carry-on bag per passenger, Bluetooth technology to connect wireless headphones, fast in-flight Wi-Fi capable of streaming video, and seatback entertainment screens.
Along with the new aircraft, United is now retrofitting its current mainline narrowbody fleet to meet similar standards by 2025. That retrofitting will introduce the same, consistent experience, across the mainline network, according to Nocella.