United signs HUGE orders for 737 MAXs and A321neos

The American carrier has been on a shopping spree for new airframes, and in doing so, has secured the largest order in its 95-year history

United Airlines has signed agreements for 200 Boeing 737 MAXs and 70 Airbus A321neos, the largest order in the airline’s history and the biggest by a single carrier in more than a decade. 

The deal with the American airframer includes 150 737-10s and 50 737-8s, taking its single-aisle orderbook with Boeing to 380 examples, including 30 that have already been delivered. 

Boeing 737 MAX
The American carrier has already taken delivery of 30 737-9s. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Across the pond, the operator has also placed an order for 70 A321neos, complementing a December 2019 agreement for 50 A321XLRs. Its total commitment for the European-built narrowbodies now total 120 aircraft. 

"Our 'United Next' vision will revolutionise the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel,” said Scott Kirby, United CEO. "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.” 

United's total order or the A321neo now sits at 120 aircraft. Airbus

As the launch customer for the MAX 10, the operator placed its first order in 2017 by converting 100 -9 orders to the larger variant. Today’s agreement also includes the purchase of Boeing 737 MAX training simulator data packages to support United's pilot training programmes. 

Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, commented: “We are truly humbled by United Airlines' confidence in the people of Boeing and the airplanes we design and build every day. Our strong partnership, dating back to United's founding, has helped us grow and weather challenges through the decades. As we look forward to the recovery ahead, we are honoured that United has once again chosen the 737 family's performance, efficiency and flexibility to power their growing network.” 

The MAX 10s are likely to be deployed on routes currently served by the carrier's 757s. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of international, added: “Such a significant order from a great airline like United underscores that the A321neo offers unmatched capabilities, operating economics, and passenger friendliness. 

“No other aircraft can do what the A321neo can do, and the Airbus team is most gratified by United’s strong affirmation of its premium status. The A321neo will complement United’s future A321XLR aircraft, together creating a privileged segment on its own.” 

Estimates of the order value total at around $30bn, although it's unlikely that United will pay anywhere close to this. Sources say that the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the high number of airframes included in the deals, will force the airframers to offer large discounts.

The list price for a 737 MAX 8 and 10 are £121.6bn and $134.9bn, respectively. Airbus no longer publishes its prices, but in 2018, an A321neo cost around $129.5bn.

When combined with the current order book, United expects to introduce more than 500 new, narrowbody aircraft. Around 40 are expected to be introduced next year, 138 in 2023 and as many as 350 in 2024 and beyond.  

That means in 2023 alone, United expects to add about one new single-aisle aircraft every three days.