United Airlines today announced the purchase of 270 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft – the largest combined order in the airline’s history and the biggest by an individual carrier in the last decade. The ‘United Next’ plan will have a transformational effect on the customer experience and is expected to increase the total number of available seats per domestic departure by almost 30%, significantly lower carbon emissions per seat and create tens of thousands of quality, unionized jobs by 2026, all efforts that will have a positive, ripple effect across the broader U.S. economy.
When combined with the current order book, United expects to introduce more than 500 new, narrow-body aircraft: 40 in 2022, 138 in 2023 and as many as 350 in 2024 and beyond. That means in 2023 alone, United’s fleet will, on average, add about one new narrow-body aircraft every three days.
United’s new aircraft order – 50 737 MAX 8s, 150 737 MAX 10s and 70 A321neos – will come with a new signature interior that includes seat-back entertainment in every seat, larger overhead bins for every passenger’s carry-on bag and the industry’s fastest available in-flight WiFi, as well as a bright look-and-feel with LED lighting. The airline expects to fly the first 737 MAX 8 with the signature interior this summer and to begin flying the 737 MAX 10 and the Airbus A321neo in early 2023.
What’s more, United 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 state-of-the-art inflight experience to tens of 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 FirstSM 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.
“Our United Next vision will revolutionize the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “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 expects to create approximately 25,000 well-paying, unionized jobs at the airline as a result of adding these new aircraft and, based on a study from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airline expects to drive more than $30 billion in traveler spending when flying United and contribute an estimated $50 billion annually towards the U.S. economy by 2026.
Plus, adding these new 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo aircraft means United will replace older, smaller mainline jets and at least 200 single-class regional jets with larger aircraft, which the airline expects will lead to significant sustainability benefits compared to older planes: an expected 11% overall improvement in fuel efficiency and an expected 17-20% lower carbon emission per seat compared to older planes.
The best customer experience in the industry
United’s new aircraft reflect a vastly improved customer experience standard – United’s signature interior – that places a premium on the overall comfort of flying – more overall available seats in the market, more premium seats on each aircraft, as well as better entertainment, overhead storage and technology features. These standards will be applied to the airline’s retrofit plan – a nose-to-tail transformation of its mainline, narrow-body fleet – that is expected to be 66% complete by 2023 and 99% complete by the summer of 2025.
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 FirstSM and Economy Plus® seats for customers seeking an elevated experience.
United’s 737 MAX 8 has 16 United FirstSM seats and 54 Economy Plus® seats – more than double the number of extra leg room seats offered by competing airlines on similar-sized aircraft. The 737 MAX 10 – the largest member of the MAX family – makes up the majority of United’s new order and will include 20 United FirstSM seats and 64 Economy Plus® seats and the new A321neo aircraft are expected to have a United FirstSM and Economy Plus® seat count similar to that of the 737 MAX 10.
By flying bigger jets with a signature interior that includes more premium seating, United will give customers more choice when selecting their onboard experience, provide MileagePlus® members more opportunity for upgrades, and position United to better meet the demand among United’s business customers while creating even more connectivity to its global long-haul network, helping to fuel growth to all corners of the world.
“We’ll deliver a better, more consistent experience, with more features for more customers, faster than ever. While some airlines are reducing the number of economy seats with extra leg room, United will offer the most premium seats in North America, taking a different, more customer-friendly approach,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s EVP and Chief Commercial Officer. “This is United playing to our strengths – the location of our U.S. hubs means we’re uniquely positioned to focus on premium products, business travel and global flying like no other U.S. airline. Our new, signature interior creates a more consistent product across our mainline fleet – with a focus on the amenities that customers value most like seat back screens, fast WiFi and extra storage – to further set ourselves apart.”
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…