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United to take delivery of additional 777-300ERs from this year

United Airlines will receive the first widebody aircraft from a new Boeing order this year, the airline told analysts on an earnings call earlier today.

The Chicago-based carrier disclosed it recently ordered 28 Boeing aircraft in its 15 January earnings release, including four 777-300ERs and 24 737 Max aircraft. Chief financial officer Gerry Laderman tells analysts that United will receive two of the 777-300ERs this year and the remaining two in 2020.

“These aircraft are highly efficient for routes that have demand for large premium cabins,” Laderman says. There are "no specifics at this point" for which routes they will fly, an airline spokesman tells FlightGlobal.

United already operates 18 777-300ERs, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

The new Max aircraft will join the fleet starting in 2020, Laderman says. United, which confirmed that the Max order is in addition to previous deals, did not provide any details on their delivery timeframe.

“These aircraft will allow us to replace older and smaller-gauge aircraft domestically, and support our capacity plan,” Laderman says of the additional Max aircraft. "The unit cost advantage of these more fuel efficient and larger aircraft is expected to be in the double-digits,” he says, adding that they will support United’s unit cost targets.

United’s non-fuel CASM decreased 0.7% in the fourth quarter, and 0.2% in the full year of 2018. It expects this figure to remain flat or improve in 2019.

The aircraft order grows United’s 737 Max commitments to 175, excluding 10 737 Max 9s delivered in 2018. Along with the four 777-300ERs, the airline is awaiting the delivery of 24 Boeing 787s, 45 Airbus A350s and 25 Embraer 175-SCs.

United has been focused on opportunistically buying used and off-lease aircraft for its mainline and regional fleets, Laderman says. The airline took delivery of a 777-300ER, three 787-10s and three 737 Max 9s in the fourth quarter.

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