United orders wide-body aircraft

2 min read

United Airlines has ordered 50 wide-body aircraft designed to reduce fuel burn and environmental impact, and increase passenger comfort.

The airline ordered 25 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft and 25 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and has future purchase rights for 50 of each aircraft.

The order follows a six-month request for proposal process. United stated that the agreement with the manufacturers met its financial and operational objectives.

‘This aircraft order is another significant step on the path to position United for long-term success in a highly competitive global market,’ said Glenn Tilton, United Airlines corporation chairman, president and chief executive. ‘We are investing in our future and we are well positioned to take full advantage as the economy recovers in the shorter term.’

United expects to take delivery of the aircraft between 2016 and 2019. At the same time it will retire its international Boeing 747s and 767s.

The 50 aircraft will reduce the average seat count by about 19 per cent compared to the aircraft they will replace and by about 10 per cent when averaged over the entire international fleet.

Each aircraft is equipped with engines that are designed to be more environmentally friendly. The Airbus A350 is powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine and the Boeing 787 is powered by either the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 or the GE GEnx.

Rolls-Royce has stated that its contract to power and provide care for the fleet of Airbus A350 XWB aircraft engines is worth $2bn (£0.6bn). The agreement is Rolls-Royce’s first large civil engine contract with United Airlines.

United estimated that these engines will reduce its fuel costs and carbon emissions from the 50 aircraft by about 33 per cent. Additionally, the company expects average lifetime maintenance costs for the aircraft to be approximately 40 per cent lower per available seat mile than the aircraft that will be retired.

United expects that the aircraft will open up new revenue opportunities for the company as the smaller size, longer range and lower operating costs will allow the company to more profitably serve a broader range of international destinations.

It is claimed the A350 has a range 11 per cent greater than the current B747 and the B787 has a range 32 per cent greater than the current B767.

Kathryn Mikells, United Airlines’ chief financial officer, said the timing of this order was ideal.

‘Our decision to move forward aggressively at the bottom of the business cycle clearly benefited us,’ she said. ‘The orders require minimal capital over the next few years but ensure we will have the right planes to strengthen our global network over the next decade.’

Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman, president and chief executive, agreed with the timing of the order.

‘We think United is making a smart decision placing an order at this point in the cycle and taking delivery years into the future,’ he said. ‘The 787 Dreamliner will provide United with additional range and unmatched fuel efficiency.’

United last took delivery of aircraft in 2002 and last ordered aircraft in 1998.