United announced its largest aircraft order in its history today with an additional 270 Airbus and Boeing planes.
Combined with existing orders, United is now expecting 90 737MAX 8, 50 737MAX 9, 250 737MAX 10, 50 A321XLR, and 70 A321neo, for some 510 new narrowbody aircraft. In 2023 the airline will get a new plane every 3 days.
They will replace some 200 50 seat single cabin regional planes and 100 mainline narrowbody aircraft. But it will still add tens of thousands of seats as United will massively grow their domestic network this decade.
The new planes will start coming this summer with a new signature interior featuring seat-back entertainment in every seat, larger overhead bins that will accommodate every passenger’s carry-on bag, the industry’s fastest in-flight WiFi, as well as a bright look-and-feel with LED lighting.
While American has paid money during the pandemic to strip out seat-back entertainment in every cabin on its 737 and 737MAX aircraft, United is going the other way. They will have 13″ HD screens in every first class seat and 10″ HD screens in every Economy seat on the 737MAX with free access to thousands of movies, TV shows, audio playlists, podcasts, and games. Every seat on these aircraft has access to electrical power and USB charge ports. The aircraft will even have Bluetooth for easy connections between wireless headphones and the seatback entertainment screens!
While some experts predicted that streaming entertainment would kill off seat-back entertainment, they missed the fact that people today consume entertainment while also using their phone to browse the internet.
American is trying to compete with Frontier and Spirit, but they will never get their costs low enough to truly compete and it will cost them premium revenue as they position themselves as an airline to avoid. Delta and United are wisely going the other direction, providing product differentiation to earn a revenue premium. That seems like a smart strategy to me.
United will retrofit its entire existing mainline fleet to the new interior so that 66% will be complete by 2023 and 99% by 2025!
United will also significantly expand Economy Plus and First class seating, offering 53 more premium seats per departure by 2026, a 75% increase from the 2019 fleet. The 737 MAX 10 and A321neo will feature 20 First class seats and 64 Economy Plus seats. That continues United’s premium heavy expansion with the CRJ-550 and the 767-300 offering a majority of their seats in premium cabins.
United also committed to operating all Newark flights with first class cabins and they expect to be back to their pre-pandemic schedule in Newark by November. They note that they are currently building new United Clubs in Newark’s Terminals A and C and will renovate the existing tired club in Terminal C. The new Terminal C club will seat over 500 passengers.
What do you think of United’s announcement?