Air travel is back. Just ask United Airlines. The company has placed the biggest jet order in its history, and the biggest for any US airline since 2011. The purchase of 270 new single-aisle planes from Boeing and Airbus has a two-fold purpose: to replace some aging aircraft as well as up the size of its overall fleet. NPR reports the 270 will combine with other fairly recent orders to give United a total of about 500 new planes in the coming years. Its fleet currently stands at about 800 planes, reports the New York Times. "It's a plan that's a nose-to-tail plan for the future," says United exec Andrew Nocella. "And it's something we've actually been working on for many, many years." But customers may be more excited to hear the airline's plan for the existing aircraft it won't be getting rid of: retrofits that will make "gate-checked bags a thing of the past."
So says another United exec, who promised "space for each and every customer's [carry-on bags] ... even on a full flight." The overhaul will also insert more premium seating into existing planes and put seatback entertainment on all seats. In what NPR sees as a possible attempt to ward off criticism around the decision to spend billions after having been on the receiving end of so much COVID-related aid, United played up the boon its purchase could be on the US economy, saying it projects the order will create 25,000 new unionized United jobs as well as new jobs in spaces ranging from manufacturing to tourism. The purchase price has not been disclosed, and while the AP reports at list price it would add up to about $30 billion, orders of this magnitude usually see huge discounts. Boeing will supply 200 of the planes, a boon for the company following the hit it took during its two-year ban on the 737 Max. (Read more United Airlines stories.)