United Airlines expects to receive from Boeing 102 fewer new aircraft in 2024 than contractually agreed, forcing the airline to recalculate its fleet plan and delivery expectations for the coming years.

The Chicago-based carrier said in a 29 February filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it is now counting on the US manufacturer to deliver 63 aircraft to it in 2024, rather than the 165 it had previously been banking on.

Those delivery delays, United says, are a major risk to its ability to execute its “United Next” fleet transformation initiative, and to its overall operation.

The delays come as Boeing deals with numerous quality issues involving its 737 Max, for which the Federal Aviation Administration has put the manufacturer on notice. United, for its part, has said it is looking for means of heading off the impact of receiving fewer new jets, such as by relying more on other types and by delaying aircraft retirements. 


Source: United Airlines

United Airlines expects only 63 Boeing aircraft to be delivered in 2024, down from 165

“If [United] is unable to acquire additional aircraft at acceptable prices from Boeing or Airbus, or if Boeing or Airbus fails to make timely deliveries of aircraft… or to provide adequate support for its products, including with respect to the aircraft subject to firm orders under our United Next plan, the company’s operations could be materially and adversely affected,” United says.

United’s purchase contracts with Boeing call for the airline to welcome 80 new 737 Max 10 to its fleet in 2024, 71 in 2025 and 126 in the following years through 2033. United has now struck all those figures from its fleet plan, saying, “Due to the delay in the certification of the 737 Max 10 aircraft, we are unable to accurately forecast the expected delivery period”.

United anticipates those issues will continue ”during the next couple of years” and ”may impact our financial position, results of operations and cash flows”.

According to Cirium fleets data, United operates a 164-strong 737 Max fleet, of which 85 are Max 8s and 79 are Max 9s. 

The airline had been expecting to receive 43 more Max 8s this year, but has now reduced that number to 37, with another six of those now expected to be delivered in 2025.

For the Max 9 model, 34 were contractually agreed for delivery to United in 2024. The company now expects to receive 19 of those this year and 15 next year.

Screenshot 2024-03-01 151053

Source: United Airlines

United Airlines’ contracted delivery timetable, versus its actual delivery expectations, as of 29 February 2024

United is banking on Boeing’s still-not-certificated 737 Max 10, holding orders for 277 of the largest variant of the Max family.

Boeing has long said it expects to have the Max 10 certificated after certificating the smallest variant, the Max 7. But both types are badly delayed, and this year Boeing revealed that it needs another year to achieve the Max 7’s certification due to a required anti-ice system redesign – a delay leaving the Max 10’s timeline more unclear.

Meanwhile, Boeing’s production of its two certificated Max models – Max 8s and Max 9s – slowed significantly in recent weeks amid a new FAA quality audit.


United’s 787 Dreamliner delivery dates have also slightly shifted. The airline previously expected to receive eight of the widebodies in 2024 and 18 next year, but now anticipates acquiring seven this year and 18 in 2025. Its remaining 125 787s on order with Boeing will likely be delivered after 2025, the airline says.

United also expects Airbus will be late with deliveries, but to a lesser extent.

Previously, the airline expected to receive 26 A321neos this year, 38 in 2025 and 62 between 2025 and 2033. Now, it anticipates receiving one fewer in 2024, 24 next year and 77 in the following years. United’s 50 on-order A321XLRs have also shifted to later delivery dates, with the company now saying the vast majority of those will join the fleet after 2025.

Earlier this month, United chief financial officer Mike Leskinen told investors that the company is “deeply disappointed” in Boeing’s delivery delays, and will rely on “more Max 9 and A321 aircraft” to fulfill its capacity commitments. It also plans to “extend the life” of some aircraft.

Boeing continues struggling with quality and safety issues, which again came into stark relief following an accident in early January that led the FAA to temporarily ground Max 9s with mid-cabin door plugs – 171 jets total worldwide.

That incident involved the in-flight blow out of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9, causing rapid decompression.The pilots were able to land and no passengers or crew were seriously injured. United cancelled hundreds of flights as its Max 9s underwent inspections.