In the coming years, United plans to replace its aging fleet of Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. Now United is floating the Airbus A321XLR as a potential replacement.
Speaking to employees in a video that was seen by Flight Global (and me), United President Scott Kirby discussed United’s fleet renewal plan. Currently, United has a combination of 127 Boeing 757s and 767s that it intends to replace.
The plan is already to replace most of those aircraft (about 90-100 of them) with a mix of 737 MAX and 787 aircraft. But there’s still question concerning what to do about the remaining 30-40 aircraft. Kirby stated:
We feel really good about the bulk of the narrowbody, the bulk of the widebody fleet. That 30 to 40 airplanes for 757, 767 replacements we don’t have a good answer for.
On the one hand, more 737s and 787s would certainly provide logistical and maintenance advantages. On the other hand, though, there are some routes where a different aircraft may make more sense.
The A321XLR is still a theory. Airbus has begun delivering its A321LRs, but no A321XLRs has been delievered. This aricraft would have more cargo capacity (220,000 pounds) and a range of about 800 nautical miles more than the A321LR. With a range of 4,500 nautical miles, the A321XLR would not only easily accommodate transcons, but could take over many East Coast to Europe routes currently served by the 757-200 and 767-300.
United’s Current Firm Aircraft Orders
Via Fleets Analyzer, United has the following aircraft on order:
- 45 A350-900s
- 45 737 Max 9s
- 100 737-10s
- 4 777-300ERs
- 13 787-9s
- 7 787-10s
While a new aircraft type may simply be superfluous, the A321LR would be a perfect fit for many UA routes.
The beauty of a competitive duopoly in the world of aircraft manufacturing is that airlines can play Airbus against Boeing in order to extract the most concessions. It could be that talks of A321XLRs are just a ruse to get Boeing to drop its price. But I do hope United is seriously considering the A321XLR. I think it would make a great addition to the fleet.
image: Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia Commons