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United Airlines buying bigger regional jets and long-range Dreamliners

United Airlines is buying 4 of the new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner seen here.


United Airlines is going on a plane-buying spree — with much of the buying focused on new and larger aircraft for the Chicago-based carrier’s expanding regional route network.

United intends to purchase 25 Embraer E-175 regional jets and four new Boeing 787-9 next-generation Dreamliner aircraft that are a longer-range version of the original Dreamliner 787.

The price tag for the new planes is more than $2 billion.

The new E-175 aircraft will replace 25 CRJ-700 aircraft currently being flown by our United Express partners and will go into service in 2019. United said the new group of E-175s will allow United to offer a more comfortable and efficient aircraft to passengers.

The switch to E-175 aircraft also will allow United to generate more revenue from each of the new E-175s, which, as now configured by United, feature 12 seats in the high-margin first-class cabin, compared to six-first class seats on United’s CRJ-700 planes. United configures its E-175 with 68 economy seats, compared to 64 on the CRJ-700.

A major push at United and competitors at the moment is maximizing revenue from every square inch of space aboard planes. This move to fly more E-175 planes appears designed to help United realize that goal.

Gerry Laderman, United’s senior vice president of finance and acting chief financial officer, said of the new E-175s: “They will provide our customers with a superior product that offers the latest in onboard amenities and comfort and will be a terrific addition to our fleet.”

The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner are the longest-range version of the aircraft now in service and will burn 20 percent less fuel than older-generation aircraft. Laderman said of the Dreamliner buy: “These new 787 aircraft are another step in our widebody replacement strategy, and we will continue to roll out new announcements in the future as we implement our comprehensive fleet plan.”

The new Dreamliner will be equipped with United’s Polaris business-class seats and other updated onboard amenities. United’s full Polaris product has been slowly rolling out across the carrier’s existing international fleet after there were delays in manufacturing the lie-flat seat that is a key component of the new international business class product.

United also said today it will continue to evaluate opportunities to purchase used aircraft.

United Airlines is a unit of United Continental Holdings.


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