United Airlines announced a long-anticipated order of Boeing 737s at a news conference Thursday morning at its headquarters in Chicago. The order, valued at $14.7 billion, is for 150 aircraft -- 100 of Boeing's new 737 MAX 9s and 50 additional 737-900ERs. It is the first order United has announced since merging with Houston's former hometown carrier Continental Airlines in 2010.
United CEO Jeff Smisek said the narrow-body jetliners will be more fuel efficient, reliable and "customer pleasing," equipped with bigger bins, better lighting, a more open and modern feel and Wifi.
"This order is a major step in building the world's leading airline, and we look forward to offering our customers the modern features and reliability of new Boeing airplanes, while also making our fleet more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly," he said.
United will begin taking delivery of the 737-900s late next year and will be the first North American carrier to take delivery of the 737 Max 9s in 2018.
According to United, the next-generation 737-900s are expected to burn up to 15 percent less fuel per seat than the older Boeing 757-200s they will replace; the fuel burn rate and CO2 emissions are expected to be as much as 13 percent less with the 737 MAX 9, part of Boeing's newest generation of airplanes.
Smisek, joined by Boeing top executives, said the order is "part of the continued investment in our airline" and its long-time relationship with Boeing, which is also based in Chicago and whose founder William Boeing built the first aircraft for United in the 1920s when the carrier was a Boeing subsidiary.
"United and Boeing share a rich history together and we are delighted United has chosen the 737 for its future fleet, renewing our partnership for decades to come," said Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes at Thursday's conference.
Smisek noted United has been the first airline in North America to receive a variety of Boeing airplanes, including the 767, 777, 787, as well as the 737 900-ER and 737 MAX 9. Jim McNerney, Boeing Company chairman, president and CEO, added one to the list: the 727.
McNerney said Boeing now has more than 10,000 total orders for 737s, which he said makes it the world's best-selling jetliner. The order is a victory for Boeing against its largest competitor, European aerospace manufacturer Airbus, which was also was in the running for the order.
Smisek said Thursday the airline "had extensive discussions with Airbus and Boeing," before the placing the order.
"It's taken us almost a year to get to this point," he said, describing the order as the best deal in terms of quality and price. Airlines often end up paying less than the listing price on orders.
Smisek said the deal includes an option to buy additional aircraft, but declined to elaborate, saying details would be annoucned later.
In a news release, United said it is now expecting delivery of 272 aircraft through 2022, including 50 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 25 Airbus A350XWBs. On Monday, United announced it is expecting delivery of the first Dreamliner in late September. It also announced Monday it will service all Dreamliners at its maintenance facility at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, which is its largest hub.
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