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United introduces 737 Max at Houston

United Airlines introduced its first Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft on flights from Houston Intercontinental today, the latest new generation aircraft to join its fleet.

The Star Alliance carrier will operate its first two 737-9s on select flights to Anchorage, Austin, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando from Houston today. Another four aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks, including between Houston and San Diego in the coming days and on certain routes to Honolulu, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tampa on 29 June.

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United is the third US carrier to operate the 737 Max, but the first with the Max 9. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines introduced the 737 Max 8 in 2017.

The Max is "living up to expectations", particularly in terms of improved seat economics, says Gerry Laderman, acting chief financial officer of United, in an interview with FlightGlobal at the airline's Chicago headquarters.

Powered by CFM International Leap-1B engines, the 737-9 is roughly 14% more fuel efficient than previous generations of the 737, the carrier says. The aircraft is configured with 179 seats, the same number as on its 737-900ERs.

"We like when manufacturers improve seat economics," says Laderman.

United has orders for 55 more 737-9s, it has already taken six aircraft, and 100 737 Max 10s, with the latter due to begin arriving in mid-2020.

The 737-10 will offer improved seat economics over the -9 at the expense of about 300nm (556km) in range.

United plans to configure the 737-10 with around 190 seats, previous executive statements indicate.

The story previously stated that three 737-9s entered service today, not two.

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