UnitedContinental converts orders to 737-900ER

Washington DC
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UnitedContinental's decision to convert orders for 38 Boeing 737-700s to the larger 737-900ER continues a two-year turn-around for a once-neglected variant of the venerable narrowbody.

The United order raised the backlog for the 737-900ER to 537 orders, or nearly twice the amount tallied since 1 January. UnitedContinental's order conversion also extends the type's orders lead over the similarly-sized Airbus A321.

The A321 backlog, excluding the new engine option variant, now stands at 382 aircraft, although it has received a greater share of the orders since 1 January with 315, according to the Flightglobal Ascend database.

The roughly 20-seat advantage of the 737-900ER over the 737-800 has been a critical reason for its rising sales as airlines have up-gauged their fleets. At the same time, the 737-900ER has also benefited from a renewed Boeing sales effort that began in 2010.

"We started putting more emphasis behind it," says Dave Kell, regional director of 737 marketing.

Boeing has now handed over 128 737-900ERs to eight customers since the type was first delivered five years ago.