A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by United Airlines takes off from Los Angeles International Airport.
United Airlines buys 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliner with an option to buy 100 more new jets that will fly the longest routes and replace less fuel-efficient decades-old aircraft.
The massive order is a big boost for Boeing from one of its biggest customers and comes as United has returned to profitability after the pandemic travel slump. The airline has recently added more international flights thanks to a recovery in demand.
United said its order was the largest wide-body sale to any US airline.
About 100 of the Dreamliners in the order will replace Boeing 767s and some of their Boeing 777s. Chicago-based United’s entire widebody fleet consists of Boeing aircraft. According to United, the Dreamliners will be delivered between 2024 and 2032.
United CEO Scott Kirby said it would be easier to buy more Boeing 787s than its rival Airbus widebody A350.
“In this world where we’re trying to hire 2,500 pilots a year and grow the airline, introducing a new type of fleet slows that down dramatically,” he said on a call with reporters. “And the truth is, the 787 is a better replacement for them  because it’s smaller.”
According to a safety filing, United had 63 Dreamliners in its fleet late last year and is expected to grow to nearly 70 by 2023. Like other airlines, United went months without new jets when manufacturing errors forced Boeing to pause deliveries until last summer.
A shortage of planes due to supply chain issues and labor shortages has contributed to higher fares this year.
According to people familiar with the matter, United first outlined the order to the pilots this fall.
In a securities filing early Tuesday, the airline estimated its adjusted capital expenditures at around $9 billion next year and $11 billion in 2024 after the order. Executives didn’t say exactly how the airline will pay for the planes.
“We will have the luxury of actually using our own cash flows to pay for these aircraft or to fund them to the extent that we find capital markets financing attractive,” United CFO Gerry Laderman said in the news briefing.
The airline is also purchasing 56 additional Boeing 737 Max narrow-body jetliners and exercising options on 44 more, adding to an order for nearly 300 new single-aisle aircraft from Boeing and Airbus that United placed last year.