United Airlines has placed an order for 25 Boeing 737 Max jets for delivery in 2023 and moved forward the delivery schedule for 40 previously ordered Maxes to 2022 and another five to 2023, according to a memo to employees sent Monday from the airline’s chief commercial officer, Andrew Nocella. Already scheduled to receive 24 Max jets in 2023, United now expects to take a total of 94 of the narrowbodies in 2022 and 2023.
“You might recall that at the start of the pandemic, we deferred delivery of many aircraft until the late 2020s in order to preserve cash as customer demand dropped to essentially zero,” wrote Nocella. “Since then, we have raised and maintained liquidity, minimized cash burn, and worked collaboratively with our union partners on creative ways to protect as many jobs as possible while supporting our continued investments in the things that keep customers flying: safe, clean, reliable airplanes and the kind of caring service that shows them how vitally important they are to us.”
Nocella credited the airline’s ability to place the order and plan for future growth to a labor deal the airline reached with its pilots last September that at the time prevented involuntary furloughs.
However, the order comes days after the airline issued furlough notices scheduled to start on March 31 if lawmakers don’t again extend the government’s Payroll Support Program (PSP).
“We need to make aircraft orders more than a year in advance of taking delivery,” said Nocella. “And as the end of the pandemic nears and vaccines continue to roll out, today’s fleet announcement helps position us to meet the demand we expect to see in 2022 and 2023 and puts us on a path toward more opportunities for our employees in the future.”
Neither United nor Boeing have detailed the precise structure of the order, and Boeing referred AIN to the airline for further information.
“We are humbled by United’s vote of confidence in the 737 family and the Boeing team,” said Boeing vice president of commercial sales and marketing Ihssane Mournir. “This order also reflects our shared view that air travel and our industry are resilient and will recover.”