United goes for Growth: Orders 270 Narrowbody Jets from Boeing and Airbus

If anyone ever doubted the fate of travel due to the pandemic, airlines are out to prove them wrong. Or perhaps this is the best time for dealmaking, because The Boeing Company has a point to prove with their 737 MAX aircraft which is slowly getting back into the mix of airlines globally.

United places 270 aircraft order

United has outlined the broad strokes of its largest ever order of 270 aircraft, a mix of Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft and Airbus A321neo aircraft today, with the jets valued at USD 30 billion at list prices as it seeks to grow after the pandemic.

The order includes an order for 200 Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft (50 MAX 8 and 150 MAX 10 aircraft, which can seat up to 230) and 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft. With this move, the airline intends to replace smaller mainline jets, and also regional jets, about 200 in number, between 2022 and 2026. This move will allow America’s third-largest airline, by revenue, to add more seats across its domestic network. United’s order includes 25 737 MAX aircraft which are “white tails”, which were made for other customers but the orders were cancelled due to the MAX-related safety grounding. United already has 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10s and 40 MAX 8s on order, and 50 Airbus A321XLRs as well.

a plane flying in the sky

United’s new aircraft order will come with a new signature interior that includes seat-back entertainment in every seat, larger overhead bins for carry-on bags and in-flight WiFi, as well as LED lighting. The airline expects to fly the first 737 MAX 8 with the signature interior in the summer of 2021 and to begin flying the 737 MAX 10 and the Airbus A321neo in early 2023.

United also intends to upgrade 100% of its mainline, narrow-body fleet to these standards by 2025, an extraordinary retrofit project that, when combined with the number of new aircraft joining the fleet, means United will deliver its new inflight experience to millions of customers at an unprecedented pace.

This order will also significantly boost United’s total number of mainline daily departures and available seats across the airline’s North American network, as well as the number of premium seats, both United First and Economy Plus. Specifically, United expects it will have on average 53 premium seats per North American departure by 2026, an increase of about 75% over 2019, and more than any competitor in North America.

United’s new narrow-body jets will help the airline increase its total seats per departure for North American flights by 30 seats, or almost 30%, by 2026. At the same time, the airline will quickly grow the number of United First and Economy Plus seats for customers seeking an elevated experience.

United CEO Scott Kirby, on the occasion said,

Our United Next vision will revolutionize the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel. By adding and upgrading this many aircraft so quickly with our new signature interiors, we’ll combine friendly, helpful service with the best experience in the sky, all across our premier global network. At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader U.S. economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending and commerce.”

United’s new In-Flight Experience

United’s inflight entertainment – 13-inch high-definition screens in every first class seat and 10-inch HD screens in every United Economy seat on the 737 MAX – includes free access to more than 2,800 selections including movies, TV shows and international selections, as well as audio playlists, podcasts, and games. Customers also can watch documentaries and live concerts through United’s exclusive collaboration with the Coda Collection. Plus, every seat on these aircraft has access to electrical power and USB charge ports and provides a seatback experience with accessibility features for people with hearing or visual disabilities.

Each new 737 MAX and A321neo will have the industry’s fastest available in-flight WiFi that lets customers stream video from online services. The aircraft also will have Bluetooth technology throughout for easy connections between wireless headphones and the seatback entertainment screens.

United’s new, significantly larger overhead bins will provide space for one carry-on bag for every person onboard, addressing several of the biggest pain points among customers and employees. United expects that the availability of these larger bins will help alleviate gate crowding and anxiety, reduce the number of gate-checked bags and decrease the time it takes to board.


United is going all-in on the domestic travel experience. As a traditional international airline from the Big 3 American Airlines perspective, United is getting all set for the revival of travel after the pandemic gets over. Not just that, they have made a contrarian move to American, which bet on making planes lighter by taking away the entire experience from the plane, including seat back IFE.

What do you think of United’s big aircraft order and inflight plans?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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