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United Airlines Places Largest Order in its History; Promises Seat Back Entertainment at Every Seat

United Airlines Places Largest Order in its History; Promises Seat Back Entertainment at Every Seat

United Airlines announced it had reached a deal with rival aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus on orders for a total of 270 additional single-aisle aircraft that the airline says will transform the passenger experience and create tens of thousands of American jobs.

Boeing won the lions share of the order with United committing to buy 50 of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8s and 150 slightly larger 737 MAX 10s. Airbus will supply United with 70 A321neo aircraft and when combined with existing orders, United’s order book now stands at a massive 500 single-aisle aircraft.

United expects to receive 40 new single-aisle aircraft next year, 138 the year after and as many as 350 in 2024. A new single-aisle plane will join United’s fleet every three days from 2023 as the airline seeks to replace its ageing existing fleet and power a growth spurt as the airline industry emerges from the pandemic.

The new aircraft will also come complete a new signature interior look that includes seatback entertainment at every seat, larger overhead bins and what United is promising as the industry’s “fastest available in-flight WiFi”.

The first 737 MAX 8 to feature the new look cabin will debut this summer while 737 MAX 10’s and Airbus A321’s will get the upgraded interior from 2023 onwards. United says it will eventually retrofit the enhancements, which include LED mood lighting and a brighter overall look, across its entire single-aisle fleet.

If all goes well, the new look will be fitted to two-thirds of the United fleet by 2023. United says that once complete, it will offer more premium seats than other airlines operating the same size of aircraft.

The project has been coined “United Next” by chief executive Scott Kirby who has used the investment to justify billions of dollars in CARES Act support that the airline received during the pandemic.

“Our United Next vision will revolutionize the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel,” Kirby said on Tuesday.

“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,” he continued.

“At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader U.S. economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending and commerce.”

United estimated the new aircraft order would add as many as 25,000 “well-paying, unionized jobs” by 2026. The announcement is a far cry from earlier this year when United threatened to furloughed thousands of employees because of the pandemic.

Details of the aircraft order had already leaked in the days leading up to the official announcement while rumors that United was about to install seatback entertainment at every seat had been circulating for several months.

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