United Airlines Will Announce Order For 50 More Boeing 787s, 60 Airbus Narrowbodies

At the end of last year United Airlines ordered 100 Boeing 787s with options for 100 more, in addition to ordering 56 Boeing 737 Maxs and exercising options on 44 that were previously ordered as part of a massive buy in 2021.

United is going back to market for even more planes:

  • Today United will announce an order for 50 Boeing 787s, firming half of the options they took last year. The 787s are expected to replace the airline’s 767 fleet, and earlier-to-retire 777s, and provide growth.

  • They are also expected to order 60 Airbus A321s.

The airline is making a huge bet on future travel growth. It’s needed to refresh its fleet, but the pace at which it will be taking aircraft raises questions about its balance sheet. They could take delivery of 800 new aircraft in the next 9 years, at a cost of several tens of billions of dollars. The exact cost of any aircraft order isn’t released, but generally airlines are thought to pay about half of list price.

With a rush for the industry to order planes, and production delays at both Boeing (with the 787 and 737 MAX, and with Airbus narrowbodies such as the soon to launch A321XLR), there’s been a race to place orders and secure delivery slots. But these are huge bets on the direction of travel and an airline’s ability to pay, both for the airlines themselves and for the airframe manufacturers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This may leave a wild ride for the manufacturers when cancellations take place in the future as United adjusts the number actually delivered to meet actual passenger loads. I wonder if they are instead betting on production problems in the future and they are trying to have inventory to sell, kind of like ticket scalpers.

  2. If those new planes actually materialize, I’ll likely be dead before they appear off the assembly lines…

  3. Sounds like United Airlines’ financials will look a lot like American’s in a few years, with a very substantial increase in debt. United’s fleet, notably the long haul, wide body types, are aging (some, like a bulk of the 767-300ER fleet are 30+ years old). The 772 fleet, from both UA and CO, are all 1995-2002 builds. The 767-400ERs are all 1999-2001 builds.

    Then there is the 319/320 fleets, which all stem from a 1992 order.

    The 737-700/800s are all from the CO days, and were ordered in the 1990s and delivered mostly in the late 90s and early 2000s.

  4. Correction, some 319s were acquired in the last decade from a Chinese airline, but the entire 320 fleet and most 319s came from the 1992 order, with a small number of 319s also added in the early 2000s.

  5. Most of United’s A319 and A320 fleet is 20+ yrs old. Also, it’s B757, B767, and B777 are also in the 20+ age bracket. It needs these new jets soon or the bathtub curve of maintenance will catch up with a vengeance.

  6. Also, a lot of the airlines were holding out for the B757 &B767 replacement from Boeing via a B797.
    The MAX disaster put an end to those plans.

  7. United buys many plane types but still nothing announced about their a350 options. Any thoughts on this?

  8. Most notable is that UA will have no large new generation widebodies; the 787 will be their largest new generation widebody which means they will be at a significant disadvantage on very long haul routes. The 787-9 has the range but not the size. The 787-10 has the size and economics as a large twin but is basically a transatlantic plane that can do a handful of transpacific routes

  9. @Tim Dunn, they have 77Ws which are new-ish and not going anywhere, nor are they figured into the re-fleet.

    They’ll be fine.

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