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Manufacturing

United Airlines orders 100 Dreamliners with option for 100 more

Manufacturing
Jenny Peterson
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United Airlines will buy at least 100 of the North Charleston-based Boeing Dreamliners  with deliveries starting in 2024. (Photo/Kim McManus)United Airlines has ordered 100 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners in a contract with an option to add 100 more — the largest widebody aircraft order by a U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history, according to the company.

This order will bring United Airlines total aircraft to roughly 700 new narrow and widebody passenger aircraft by 2032 to support its global fleet.

“Boeing is our largest exporter (with) high tech manufacturing jobs — the very kinds of jobs we are working hard to repatriate to the United States,” said Scott Kirby, chief executive officer at United Airlines.

Approximately 100 planes in the widebody order are expected to replace older Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 aircraft, with all 767 aircraft removed from the United fleet by 2030. United also exercised options to purchase 44 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for delivery between 2024 and 2026. It ordered 56 more MAX aircraft for delivery between 2027 and 2028.

United expects to take delivery of the new widebody planes between 2024 and 2032 and can choose among the 787-8, -9 or -10 models, providing flexibility to support a wide range of routes.

Boeing’s Dreamliner program is based in North Charleston, which is one of two final assembly locations for the 787-8, -9 and -10.

See related: Boeing makes first delivery since 2021.

Executives said the order will support United Airlines’ move in expanding its global fleet and adding more international flights, in line with the company’s United Next plan.

In the last two years, United added 13 new international destinations, 40 new international routes and extra trips to 10 existing international routes.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner promises a premium flight experience. More than 90% of the United Airlines international widebody planes already feature the United Polaris business class seat and big seats that turn into beds along with luxury blankets and pillows.

The new planes will be more fuel efficient with an expected 25% decrease in carbon emissions per seat for the new planes compared to the older planes they are expected to replace. Kirby noted that supply chain issues have improved in the last six months, giving executives confidence that the Dreamliners will be delivered on or close to schedule.

“While the supply chain is challenged at both Boeing and Airbus — and we’re already a little bit behind on aircraft deliveries this year — we're going to take delivery of an awful lot of airplanes in the next few years, even if some of them get pushed to the right a little bit,” said Kirby. “We've already taken into account some expected delays.”

The order is expected to lead to increased hiring at United Airlines. The Chicago-based company hired 15,000 people in 2022 and is on track to add another 15,000 next year.

The airline hired about 2,400 pilots and plans to add more than 2,500 pilots in 2023, with a goal to add 10,000 pilots in the next decade. United will hire more than 18,000 new flight attendants in the coming years with more than 4,000 expected to join the team in 2023.

More details about the United Airlines-Boeing announcement will be available later today following a media tour of Boeing South Carolina.

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