What does a recent history of the United fleet look like? The chart shows the airline was actually seeing a slow shrink in the fleet until its merger with Continental.

Breaking down the fleet by OEM we see the following. Pre-merger United saw a slow growth in the Airbus fleet as it ran down the Boeing fleet.  But after the merger, it has been mainly Boeing.  The Airbus fleet has stagnated.  This may be why so many question the commitment to the A350 order.

It is also understandable why Boeing reacted the way it did last year to keep Bombardier away.  United and Boeing have a common history that goes back to the origins of this industry.

Looking at the fleet as of the end of 2017 we see how the fleet has aged.  There is a witching moment that comes around 20 years and aircraft are retired.  Unless its a 757 and there is no Boeing option, then you hold on a bit longer.  Or it’s a 767 and the same rule applies.

The Airbus fleet is getting close to the 20-year mark. The A320 fleet can be replaced by MAX8s if the airline wants a Boeing solution close in gauge.

But the A319 fleet is another problem.  As is the aging 737-700 fleet.  The combination is 105 aircraft.  United can’t plausibly say this size is all to be upsized – as noted here.  Can the MAX7 work?  It is now a 150 seater, so a long way from the current seating sizes.  We think a good amount of this sized fleet will best be replaced by the (dreaded) C Series or E2.

After all, once Delta deploys the C Series United can’t sit by and not react. Or, perhaps, how long can they wait?

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Addison Schonland
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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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