By Emma Nitzsche
United Airlines announced Tuesday it had purchased 270 narrow-body jetliners from Boeing and Airbus in preparation for a post-covid travel surge.
Last year during the pandemic, U.S. airlines received a bust of cash and cheap loans as aid packages from the government. Airlines took $54 billion in federal payroll aid in exchange for keeping workers employed. Despite the support, many companies furloughed thousands of workers and cut flights.
Today, United Airlines is preparing for a big comeback.
In one of the largest airline orders in history, United purchased 200 Boeing Max jets and 70 Airbus 321neos. One hundred fifty of the Boeing planes purchased are Max 10s, the largest planes in the family. United estimates the move to a bigger aircraft will yield a 30 percent increase in seat availability by 2026.
The entire sale is estimated to cost around $15 billion, though the airline declined to disclose the exact amount it will spend. Some of the updated planes will replace older jets like the Boeing 757-200 planes, which are forecasted to retire in the coming years.
In addition to adding new planes, United will update every one of its narrow-body planes with new and improved features. The plan is to attract more travelers, especially high-paying passengers, in coastal hubs like San Francisco and Newark, New Jersey. According to the press release, the company wants to have all of its planes reach the updated standards by 2025.
The new features will include LED lighting, upgrades to in-flight Wi-Fi, entertainment on the back of every seat, and an overhead bin allowing every passenger to have a carry-on bag.
“It’s really making the gate-checked bags a thing of the past,” claimed United Spokesperson Toby Enqvist in a call with reporters. “We’re going to have space for each and every customer’s carry-on bags. Even on a full flight.”
On top of attempting to make air travel more comfortable for consumers, United wants to encourage more daily departures. Therefore, the company will send out more planes and add a series of new destinations.
An expectation of increased travel means that United will need to hire more staff members. To prepare for the renovations, the company will host a hiring spree for approximately 25,000 employees. The event will advertise career opportunities for pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics.
United CEO, Scott Kirby, said he expects business and international travel to recover 100% from the pandemic, but other airlines aren’t as confident. Just last week, American Airlines announced it would cancel hundreds of flights this summer due to staff shortages and weather uncertainties. The week before that, Southwest airlines delayed and canceled thousands of flights over three days when the carrier ran into technological problems.