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United aircraft deliveries to hit post-merger high in 2019

United Airlines will take delivery of 40 mainline aircraft in 2019, the most in a single year since its merger with Continental Airlines nearly a decade ago.

The Chicago-based carrier will take 20 new Boeing 737 Max 9s, two Boeing 777-300ERs and eight Boeing 787-10s, as well as 10 used Airbus A319s, in 2019, it says in an employee newsletter on 22 January. It will also take delivery of 25 Embraer 175s for its regional fleet.

Since 2010, United's new deliveries peaked at 35 mainline aircraft in 2014, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

Asset Image

United operates all three 787 variants, becoming the North American launch operator of the 787-10 (left) in January

United

Aircraft acquisitions will help push United's adjusted capital expenditures to $4.7 billion in 2019, a January investor update forecasts. This is up from $4.2 billion last year, and more than double the $2 billion in 2014, securities filings show.

The 40 aircraft due this year will "support our network growth while at the same time providing a better customer experience and reducing costs", United says in the newsletter.

United is in the midst of a domestic growth push, with capacity forecast to grow 4-6% this year and next. Much of that is focused on building connections over its mid-continent hubs, particularly Chicago O'Hare, Denver and Houston Intercontinental.

While A319s, 737s and E175s will support these domestic ambitions, new 777s and 787s will be used to for international growth. United chief financial officer Gerry Laderman said earlier this month that the 777-300ERs will be used in markets with "demand for large premium cabins", without providing further details.

The airline, which debuted 787-10s on domestic flights this month, will begin phasing the aircraft onto six high-demand transatlantic routes from Newark from March.

On the cost front, United expects unit costs (CASM) excluding fuel to be "flat or better" in 2019, the investor update shows. This metric includes benefits from new aircraft that will replace nine older models - two A319s, four Airbus A320s and three Boeing 757-200s - in its fleet.

The 737-9s "will allow us to replace older and smaller-gauge aircraft domestically, and support our capacity plan,” Laderman has said of the airline's December order for for 28 additional 737 Max and 777s. "The unit cost advantage of these more-fuel-efficient and larger aircraft is expected to be in the double-digits."

The 737-9s represent a "more than a 20% CASM improvement" over the 757-200s they replace, United says in the newsletter.

The A320 family aircraft due for retirement in 2019 will be removed ahead of major maintenance events, and then be used to support United's remaining fleet of Airbus narrowbodies, the carrier says.

United anticipates an 803-aircraft strong mainline fleet by the end of 2019, the update shows.

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