Delivering the signal that airline travel is storming back (at least domestic leisure travel), United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby sent an email message to customers announcing “the largest aircraft purchase that our industry has seen in a decade.” United placed orders (terms not disclosed) for 270 single-aisle jets—200 Boeing 737 Max-series and 70 Airbus A321neos. He also said that every new aircraft would have United’s “signature interior” with improved seats, upgraded entertainment systems with power outlets and seatback screens for every passenger, and larger overhead storage bins. Kirby added that United would retrofit existing aircraft with the interiors, updating two-thirds of the fleet by 2023 and 100 percent by 2025.
“We’ll be adding an average of one brand-new plane to our mainline fleet every three days,” he said. “As the world continues to open, we’re continuing to lead with a committed focus on improving your experience every time you fly with us.”
Kirby also revealed that United would be replacing regional jets on many routes with the larger single-aisle aircraft. “As we add these larger aircraft and fly fewer regional planes, we’ll have more premium cabin and economy plus seats than ever before,” he said. “And our new aircraft will also be more fuel-efficient, helping us get even closer to our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2050.”
Preemptively fending off potential criticism for heavy spending on so many new aircraft so soon after receiving government financial assistance during the pandemic, United cited the upside this purchase would have for the economy. The move will result in 25,000 new union jobs at the airline, it said, and would also help stimulate secondary job creation at manufacturers, airports and leisure travel destinations throughout the U.S.