- United Airlines signed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR jets on Tuesday, to replace its aging Boeing 757 fleet.
- Boeing has been developing a new mid-sized airplane, or “NMA,” to replace the 757, the project has been delayed as Boeing scrambles to fix its grounded 737 Max.
- United considered waiting for Boeing’s option, but ultimately decided to place the firm order with Airbus.
- The airline expects to begin receiving the jets in 2024.
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United Airlines signed an order with Airbus on Tuesday for 50 of the European aviation firm’s A321XLR aircraft to replace its aging fleet of Boeing 757 jets.
The order was confirmed by United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella Tuesday evening.
United’s order was a major hit from a US airline for Boeing, which has an new mid-sized airplane, or “NMA,” currently in development. The NMA, which is intended to offer a replacement to the 757, with a similar range and capacity, has faced development delays as Boeing scrambles to fix its troubled 737 Max family of jets.
The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March 2019, following the second of two fatal crashes within five months.
Although Nocella said that the Boeing NMA had been a contender to replace the 757s, the American plane maker’s jet has yet to be announced. On a conference call with media, Nocella said that the airline had not “shut the door on potentially ordering the NMA” in the future, “once Boeing further refines the mission capabilities and details of the NMA.”
“But that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.
United will take delivery of the new Airbus jets starting in 2024. The planes will primarily be based at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey and Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, flying trans-Atlantic routes.
Airbus announced the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show in June. The plane, which is expected to enter service in 2023, will have a range of 4,700 nautical miles – about 200 miles more than the 757.
As part of the agreement signed Tuesday, United also deferred the first delivery of its order for 45 larger Airbus A350 wide-body jets from 2022 to 2027. The deliveries will coincide with the expected retirement of United’s first Boeing 777 jets, Nocella said.
United has about 165 jets from the current, shorter-range Airbus A320 family in service, according to Airfleets.net, in addition to nearly 350 Boeing 737 jets – including 14 grounded 737 Max 9 planes. Its international fleet is currently all Boeing, including 757, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliner planes.
United does not have any current plans to replace its 767s, Nocella said. The airline is currently replacing the cabins of its 767 planes, a task it expects to complete within the next 18 months.
The 757 entered service in 1983 as a relatively large and long-range narrow-body jet. It’s proven adept at serving US airlines on high-traffic trans-continental routes and certain routes from the east coast to Europe.