United Airlines has increased its order for new Boeing 737 Max airplanes, adding another 25 to its order now totaling 180 of the 737 Max airplanes. United also said it asked Boeing to sped up delivery of the new 737 Max that is has on order, a vote of confidence from one of the world’s largest airlines. “These new aircraft are going to allow us to be more competitive,… it’s the right aircraft at the right time” said Andrew Nocella, Chief Commercial Officer at United Airlines.
Currently, United’s 737 Max aircraft are based at its Houston hub and have resumed flying now that the nearly two year grounding has been lifted following the two fatal crashes that lead to the type’s grounding. Nocella indicated that the airline is eager to get the new Max’s as it will replace smaller airplanes with the new Max’s as demand returns and as the airline continues to up-gauge many routes with larger and newer aircraft.
The Max’s will eventually be based out of Houston, Denver and Chicago and will fly connection routes from those hubs as well as routes to Hawaii on certain routes. Unlike other airlines, United has not engaged in mass fleet retirement, with CEO Scott Kirby previously saying they are banking on demand returning and that they want enough aircraft to meet that demand.
Mike Conner, an aviation analyst with a flight tracking software company said “before the pandemic, United had the most international routes by far, and they don’t want to get caught with their pants down when demand returns, that’s why they have held off on large scale fleet retirement, they want to get back into the swing of things, then make fleet retirement decisions.”
United also has an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR airplanes with deliveries due to start sometime in 2024. Those are expected to be based at the airline’s Washington, D.C. Dulles hub, Newark and some in Houston to serve some of its South American routes that have less demand but profitable routes.