After fighting for survival during the pandemic and furloughed thousands of workers, United Airlines is planning its comeback with a brand new fleet of planes to be procured and change in strategy that is aimed at delivering premium experiences for its flyers.
United unveiled its largest-ever purchase plan involving both Boeing and Airbus planes that see its fleet swell up to 500 planes in the coming years. Reuters estimates the orders to potentially be worth $30 billion.
In a clear departure from its previous strategy, the airline is bringing seat-back entertainment for all its planes, which would also mean retrofitting some of its older planes that were procured without them in the past. The airline will also introduce more legroom seats in its coach section while also moving away from single-class travel in its planes.
United's new strategy aims at leisure travelers who are willing to pay more for comfort as well as business-related travel that is expected to boom after the pandemic. The airline also wants to introduce bigger overhead bins. "It's really making the gate-checked bags a thing of the past," United's Toby Enqvist told reporters in a call. "We're going to have space for each and every customer's [carry-on bags] ... even on a full flight."
To achieve this goal, United is placing orders for 200 Boeing Max jets. 150 of those will be the latest Max 10, which was successfully tested a week ago, while the rest will be the Max 8. This is a major shot in the arm for Boeing, which is gunning for a comeback in the arena. Airbus has also managed to feature in United's plans with an order for 70 aircraft of its 321-neo, reported CNBC. The plan is expected to add 25,000 new jobs including pilots and flight attendants.
Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group advised against reading too much into this order. He told NPR that bulk airplane orders aren't exactly written in stone. Airlines can shift when the planes get delivered based on how business is faring. He did agree that with cheap loans, low fuel prices, and more efficient planes coming in, this was the best time to place orders.