United Orders 19 Used Boeing 737-700s

Jul 17, 2019

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In its earnings announcement Tuesday evening, United Airlines said that it was ordering 19 used Boeing 737-700s — expanding its -700 fleet by almost 50%. It’s the smallest 737 model operated by the airline, at 126 seats versus 166 for the 737-800 model and 179 for the 737-900 and MAX9.

But, the airline made clear, the order has nothing to do with its grounded 737 MAXs.

A United spokesman said that the planes are the latest result of the company’s continued opportunistic purchases of used aircraft, consistent with the airline’s strategy over the past 18 months.

United operates 14 737 MAX planes, which have been grounded since March. When the airline announced its intention to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration order that barred the MAX from passenger service, it said about 40 flights a day would be affected. (For comparison, United already has 40 737-700s in its fleet, according to the airline.)

The MAX has been grounded worldwide in the wake of two crashes overseas that left 346 people dead. Boeing is working to address software malfunctions suspected of contributing to those disasters, but other variants of the 737 remain unaffected and are mainstays of short- and medium-haul flying.

Further information about United’s purchase, including deployment plans for the jets after the airline starts receiving them in December, was not immediately available.

Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, said in an email that while the -700 purchase may be in line with the airline’s opportunistic purchasing strategy, it’s more surprising that it chose that variant over -800 or -900s.

“I don’t believe the -700’s operating economics are as good as the larger versions,” he said.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/TPG

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