United Airlines is negotiating with Airbus and Boeing for a triple-digit order of Airbus A350, Boeing 787 and 777-9 wide-body jets, or more than 100 aircraft including options. Not to mention the 777-8F and A350F.
A "triple-digit" order for Airbus or Boeing widebodies
It was during a meeting between Scott Kirby, chief executive of United Airlines, and pilots from the U.S. airline who were attending a session at the United Airlines training center in Denver that the former revealed that the carrier was working on a "triple-digit" order for Airbus or Boeing widebodies as part of the modernization of its long-haul fleet. While United Airlines still has 49 Airbus A350-900s on order, not a single one of which has yet been delivered, the airline is currently operating an all-Boeing fleet that is starting to age, if it hasn't already.
130 Boeing 767s and 777s to be replaced
On the fleet docket, United Airlines has no less than 130 Boeing 767s and 777s to replace. Aircraft exceeding an average of 20 years of good and loyal service. The 38 Boeing 767-300ERs and 18 Boeing 764-400s have an average age of 26 and 20.4 years respectively. United Airlines is the only airline to introduce the 777-200, which will soon be followed by the longer-lasting 777-200ER. The 777-200s are approaching 25 years of commercial life and the 777-200ERs 22 years. Only the 777-300ERs have an average age of less than five years. So it's no surprise that United Airlines' CEO is talking about a "triple-digit" order.
Airbus or Boeing or both?
United Airlines has made the strategic choice of dual sourcing. This is true for its medium-haul fleet, which is a mix of Airbus and Boeing, but the airline's recent orders show that the proportion of Boeing 737 MAXs will eventually outnumber the Airbus A320neo family. Don't forget that if Airbus has arrived in force at United Airlines, it is following the merger with US Airways, which had bet on the European manufacturer and thus brought its A320ceo fleet and the CFM engine, United Airlines being essentially Pratt & Whitney and IAE V2500. For all that, United Airlines did order Airbus long-haul (49 A350-900s) alongside the Boeing 787 in its three versions (12 Boeing 787-8s, 48 Boeing 787-9s and 21 Boeing 787-10s)
Airbus A350-1000 and/or Boeing 777-9?
Interesting to recall that United Airlines initially ordered Airbus A350-900s in 2009 before changing its requirements to Airbus A350-1000s in 2013, for 35 aircraft, before changing its order again and turning the A350-1000s into A350-900s in 2017. A clever way to play on contractual clauses and gain time with the very intensive lobbying of Boeing for its 777X launched in November 2013? The realization of the future order will clear up the clouds. The logic of dual sourcing should lead the airline to return to the A350-1000 and take Boeing 777-9s. Not to mention the A350F and 777-8F.
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