By Pablo Diaz
United Receives First Boeing 737 MAX 8, Builds Anticipation For Mega Order
On Sunday, United received its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 after completing the airplane’s delivery flight from Boeing Field to Newark Liberty International Airport. The aircraft, with registration N27251, will be formally introduced on Tuesday, when the company is expected to announce a significant narrowbody order.
The carrier has 40 737 MAX 8s already on order, expects to start operating commercial flights in mid-July and will incorporate 13 737 MAX 8s throughout the year. The jets will initially be based in Houston, from which the 737 MAX 8 variant will initially serve routes to Newark and Las Vegas.
United is no stranger to operating the 737 MAX family, as it already flies the larger737 MAX 9 variant and awaits the certification of the biggest variant of the model, the 737 MAX 10. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is slightly smaller than the 737 MAX 9 version, accommodating 166 passengers onboard, offering sixteen first-class seats and 150 in the economy cabin.
The 737 MAX 9 can transport 179 passengers with twenty first-class seats and 159 seats in economy. The aircraft is a significant improvement in terms of efficiency and environmental impact from the 737-900 it currently operates and an upgrade to the passenger experience, with inflight entartainment and onboard WiFi.
The company has kept a low profile on the reception of this new aircraft as it prepares for the big announcement, as it seeks to gain in consumption efficiency and carbon footprint while taking advantage of a moment of significantly-reduced prices as manufacturers seek to mitigate the impact of the wave of cancellations and contract re-negotiations left by the pandemic.
Building on the certification problems the 737 MAX experienced with the 737 MAX 8 variant, tragically exposed with the model’s two crashes, the 737 MAX 10 certification process is expected to be long and complex. The 777X’s recent setback is just a sample of what will take for Boeing to regain the FAA’s trust.
It’s undeniable that United needs to start replacing its fleet of Boeing 757s, and the capabilities of the A321XLR make it an ideal candidate. The company has 71 757s, 50 of the 757-200 variant and 21 of the 757-300, with which it covers routes to Hawaii, on domestic flights and on transatlantic flights to connect with Europe. It expects to receive the first A321XLRs in 2024, and a new order would allow it to completely retire the veteran fleet of 757s, providing a certain margin of growth while it manages to unify the equipment with which it serves these types of routes, commonly called “long and thin.”