United Orders More Boeing 737 MAXs, While China Refuses To Unground The Plane

United Airlines announced today that it is purchasing 25 additional Boeing 737 MAX jets to be delivered in 2023, bringing its total firm orders for the aircraft to 188, and speeding up the delivery of some of the existing MAX planes in its order book – with 40 moved up to 2022 delivery and 5 to 2023.

Meanwhile, as the MAX gets ungrounded around the world, China says it is not ready to do so.

“Major safety concerns” raised by Chinese regulators have not been fully resolved, said Dong Zhiyi, deputy administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, at a news conference.

Design changes must pass approval for airworthiness, pilots must receive “effective flight training” and conclusions of investigations into the two crashes must be clear, Dong said.

“The technical review has not yet entered the certification and flight test stage,” Dong said Monday. He gave no timeline for when that might happen.

With Chinese airlines off the table for MAX aircraft acquisitions, and Boeing struggling more generally, United clearly got much more favorable pricing than the standard 50% off of list to do this deal, and to do it now during the pandemic. United hasn’t aggressively retired aircraft types during the pandemic, either – so while they’ve been due for a fleet refresh timing on their end is somewhat more flexible than it otherwise would be as well.

We still haven’t seen a firming of the dubious British Airways order announced in summer 2019 and the program is desperate to lock in Southwest Airlines which for the first time could consider a Boeing alternative.

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. China refusing to unground….could it be related to the new Chinese COMAC C919 ? Hmmm….

  2. Gee, I wonder If China has underlying motives here, between a pandemic where airlines don’t need all of their planes and getting a free poke in the eye to both the USA and Boeing.

  3. United’s average fleet age is now handedly older than any other US airline. Their domestic fleet in particular has had little focus while they have bought scores of new widebodies over the past 5 years.
    And the engine explosion could well lead to the grounding of a chunk of their 777s, esp. the -200s, if repairs become too expensive or take too long.

  4. Continental was always strongly Boeing; after the merger a large fleet of 737NGs came to United which before had retired their 737 Classics in favor of their A319/A320 fleet. It is quite possible that this is a combination of continuing Continental philosophy and United getting a give-away-the-store price.

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