United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby acknowledges that the US carrier is considering a potential order of Airbus A321neos to replace previously ordered Boeing 737 Max 10s – certification of which remains in limbo.

During the JP Morgan Industrials Conference on 12 March, Kirby said shifting to A321neos is possible – but only if “we get a deal where the economics work”. 

He says United is considering that option due to delays to the 737 Max 10’s certification, and Boeing’s related production and quality issues.

“As much as I would like those deliveries, this is not a 12-month issue,” Kirby adds of Boeing. “This is a two-decade issue.”

United A321neo-c-Airbus

Source: Airbus

United is considering a shift toward the A321neo given Boeing’s struggles in certificating the 737 Max 10 

The carrier currently has six A321neos in service and 174 more on order, according to Cirium fleets data. It holds orders for nearly 350 737 Max, including hundreds of Max 10s.

United’s deals with Boeing call for 80 737 Max 10 deliveries this year, 71 in 2025 and 126 in the following years through 2033. But with certification of the largest variant of Boeing’s next-generation narrowbodies likely pushed into 2025, United recently removed those jets from its fleet plan. 

“We’ve asked Boeing to stop building Max 10s for us and build Max 9s,” Kirby says. “If and when the Max 10 gets certified, we’ll convert them back to Max 10s.”

“The Max 10 is out for us until it’s certified.”

The Chicago-based carrier is expecting more than 100 fewer Boeing aircraft deliveries in 2024 than contractually agreed. In a 29 February regulatory filing, United said it expected Boeing to deliver 63 aircraft to it in 2024, rather than the 165 it had previously counted on. 

“I am encouraged with the following at Boeing – I think they have accepted that there are larger changes that they need to make,” Kirby says. “It’s probably an overused term, but they need to go slow to go fast. What that means is that, this year, deliveries are going to be way behind what they expected originally.”