United Airlines has begun early discussions with Airbus over the delays it faces in acquiring crucial Boeing aircraft that’ll power its long-term future fleet.
Discussions With Airbus
Industry sources near several leading publications, such as Bloomberg, say that United Airlines has entered discussions with Airbus about potentially acquiring more A321neos. This new aircraft type recently joined the United fleet.
If secured, these Airbus A321neos would cover the missing Boeing 737-10s, which United’s CEO expects to continue to be delayed.
The sources say these discussions are in the early stages but have seen Scott Kirby, the airline’s CEO, travel to Toulouse to talk with the plane maker.
Interestingly, these same sources also speak of the deal potentially being a means to end the ongoing Airbus A350 deal, which has been present for a considerable period but without any breakthrough. Notably, the airline still does not fly the A350 series. Instead, selecting the 787s to power its next-generation widebody fleet.
While no agreement has yet been reached between Airbus and United Airlines, this highlights the concerning lack of faith in the American plane maker among critical customers that is beginning to form.
The A321neo is slated to be important to the United fleet. While this could grow with a new commitment, Airbus may find it hard to offer the planes to United when they need it unless a deal can be struck due to the sheer scale of demand for the A320neo family, seeing the line sold out into the 2030s.
United CEO Speaks On 737-10
However, United Airlines looking towards Airbus doesn’t come as a shock. Scott Kirby, the airline’s CEO, spoke about their concerns over the 737-10s approval, an aircraft type meant to play a pivotal role in the fleet.
Kirby has expressed his frustrations on a continued basis over the Alaska Airlines incident and has made headlines for calling it “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Now, the focus shifts towards certification timelines for unapproved aircraft and quality control.
According to the latest forecast, internally, the best-case scenario is that United expects a five-plus-year delay, and as a result, they’re making a fleet plan that does not include the Boeing 737-10.
An analysis of its deal with the 737-10 must be conducted to understand United’s frustrations. The airline has close to 300 737-10s on order; this is no small commitment.
At this stage, no aircraft orders have been formally cancelled or switched. Some onlookers question whether these comments, visits, and studies are the airline doing its due diligence, and when it all blows over, they’ll look to retain the 737-10s or if they’re seriously exploring other alternatives.
Ryanair weighed in on the discussions, saying that if any U.S. airline decided to move away from a commitment to the 737-10, it would purchase the planes at the right price.