United Airlines is reportedly in talks to place an additional order for Boeing’s narrowbody 737 MAX. According to insiders, the talks are at an advanced stage, and could see the airline committing to at least 100 737 MAX from Boeing. The order is part of a wider fleet revamp for the major US airline.
United preparing a large order
United Airlines was an early adopter of Boeing’s latest generation narrowbody aircraft. Its order in July 2012 made it the fifth airline customer to commit to the type. Since then, it has bolstered its original commitment to a total of 40 737 MAX 8 and 79 MAX 9. At present, it has 30 MAX 9 in its fleet, but is yet to receive any of the MAX 8 order.
It seems United is happy with the performance of its MAX aircraft so far as, despite having a large order in for the A321neo, the airline is reportedly in the advanced stages of a discussion to order more aircraft from Boeing. As reported in Bloomberg today, people close to the matter have claimed that United could order at least 100 MAX, potentially as many as 150.
If it goes ahead, this deal would build on United’s March order for an additional 25 MAX aircraft, which had taken its existing fleet commitment to 210 aircraft. The airline has accelerated its delivery timeline for its MAXs, with 40 new planes slated to arrive in 2022 and 54 in 2023.
Right now, it’s a buyers’ market for the 737 MAX, as Boeing looks to offer deep discounts to airlines in a bid to levy support for the previously grounded jet. Any order from United is likely to attract a lower purchase price, reduced upfront payment and other financial benefits, particularly on a large 100-plane plus booking.
A United spokesperson declined to confirm any order, saying that the airline does not comment on speculative aircraft orders, but said that the airline has realigned its focus “away from managing the crisis of the pandemic and toward planning for our bright future.”
Votes of confidence for the MAX
For Boeing, the steady stream of incoming orders for its narrowbody plane is a much-needed vote of confidence. Despite concerns that passengers would be unwilling to fly the plane following its lengthy grounding, in practice, this has proven to be a non-issue. As such, multiple airlines are proving to be willing to invest in the efficient new-generation aircraft.
Among the recent committers are Southwest Airlines, which upped its order book by 34 jets earlier this week. Lessors SMBC Aviation Capital and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise have ordered 14 and 15 jets, respectively. And earlier in the year, Alaska Airlines added 23 further aircraft to its outstanding order book.
But it’s not all been good news for Boeing, as 88 MAX orders were canceled even before the aircraft was ungrounded. Aeromexico has halved its order commitment, and amid the ongoing ban of the type in China, China Aircraft Leasing removed 26 planes from its order.
Nevertheless, the trend of Boeing’s order book is definitely upwards, and with the planemaker readying for a ramp-up in production efforts, the narrowbody is set to be a big part of many airline fleets for years to come.