Betting on robust demand for international travel, United Airlines on Tuesday unveiled an order of 100 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options for an additional 100 jets.
The huge order, the largest by an American carrier for this class of aircraft, marks a victory for Boeing, which has targeted mid-decade as the period it expects to return to its pre-pandemic financial health after the 737 MAX scandal and other woes.
United Chief Executive Scott Kirby, who also announced a giant Boeing and Airbus order in June 2021 ahead of rivals, predicted the airline’s ambitious 787 plan would pay off for the carrier during a capacity-constrained period.
“United is really uniquely positioned to grow in a way that’s going to be a huge challenge for others,” Kirby told reporters.
White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain touted the order, saying on Twitter, “Another day, another huge investment in US manufacturing—advanced production, high-quality jobs in the U.S..”
United expects deliveries of the jets to take place between 2024 and 2032, aiming the new aircraft as a replacement for the 767 fleet that will be removed from service by 2030.
The Dreamliner saves 25 percent of the carbon emission compared with the jets being retired.
United executives did not offer an estimate as to the total potential cost of the contracts, but projected that capital spending would rise to $9 billion in 2023 and $11 billion in 2024.
United said it also exercised options for an additional 44 737 MAX planes between 2024 and 2026, and ordered 56 more MAX jets for 2027 and 2028.
After the 737 MAX, the 787 Dreamliner—which flies transatlantic journeys as well as other international itineraries—has been Boeing’s other leading source of orders and deliveries.
United officials said beefing up the fleet of 787s made sense at a time when the carrier already flies the jet, making it an easy transition for pilots and helping the company add capacity quickly.
But United officials praised the A350, the rival widebody offering from European aerospace giant Airbus, and said they still plan to take delivery of 45 of the Airbus jets from 2030.
For Boeing, the United order signals a victory for the 787, for which production was slowed to a trickle while the company halted deliveries of new jets for more than a year while addressing production problems.
Boeing resumed 787 deliveries in August after getting the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has heavily scrutinized Boeing processes in the aftermath of the 737 MAX crisis.
“This is an opportunity for Boeing to ramp up at Charleston, perhaps with two production shifts,” said Michel Merluzeau, director of aerospace and defense analysis at AIR consultancy.
In October 2020, Boeing consolidated manufacturing of the 787 to Charleston, ending production of the wide-body jet in Washington state in an efficiency move as it battled financial losses during the COVID-19 downturn.
At its investor day in November, Boeing officials outlined a plan to restore 787 production to 10 passenger jets per month.
Shares of Boeing gained 0.9 percent to $187.91 in early trading Tuesday, while United rose 1.3 percent to $44.80.