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United Set to Retire Its Oldest A320

United Airlines’ oldest A320-232, registered as N401UA, departing Los Angeles International Airport in 2015 (Photo: Glenn Beltz (Wikimedia Commons), licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

After nearly three decades of service, United Airlines’ oldest Airbus A320 is heading for retirement. The aging aircraft is scheduled to operate its last scheduled passenger flight on May 7, 2023.

United’s First Airbus A320

The Airbus A320-232 is registered as N401UA and was delivered to United on November 24, 1993. Although its manufacturer serial number is 435, it was the 431st A320 produced by Airbus and the 64th oldest A320 in service.

Upon delivery, the aircraft was painted in United’s grey “Battleship” livery and configured with 12 domestic first class seats and 126 economy class seats. Between 1995 and 1998, the aircraft was named after United employee Alan Temple.

In December of 2005, N401UA was transferred to Ted, United’s former low-cost brand. The aircraft was repainted in the Ted livery and reconfigured with an all-economy layout with 156 seats. It spent a few years flying around North America, Central America and the Caribbean for Ted. When the Ted brand was shuttered in January of 2009, the aircraft was reintegrated into the United fleet. With its return to mainline flying, the aircraft was once again repainted, this time into United’s “Rising Blue” livery. It also received a new configuration, with 12 domestic first class seats and 138 economy class seats.

United Airlines A320-232 N401UA at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009 (Photo: Tomás Del Coro (Wikimedia Commons), licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Following the United-Continental merger in 2010, the airline introduced a new livery that was heavily influenced by Continental Airlines’ globe design. N401UA received this livery in early 2012, bidding farewell to the iconic 1974 “United Tulip” logo designed by American graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass. Although United introduced a new livery in 2019, N401UA never received the new colors and will retire in the post-merger globe livery.

As reported by @xJonNYC on Twitter and the United Airlines Fleet Site, United’s first A320 was retired after operating its last scheduled passenger flight on May 7, 2023. Its last revenue flight was United Flight 1832 from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. N401UA is then scheduled to be ferried to Tupelo Regional Airport in Lee County, Miss.

The Future of United’s Narrowbody Airbus Fleet

Despite the retirement of N401UA, United is expected to keep its Airbus A319 and A320 fleet in service for many years to come. The Chicago-based carrier is in the process of retrofitting its narrowbody aircraft with its “United Next” interior. The new cabins feature seatback entertainment screens, new lighting and overhead bins, refreshed lavatories and braille placards.

The first A319 with the new interior, N801UA, completed its interior refurbishment at Melbourne Orlando International Airport in late April and is currently at Roswell Air Center in New Mexico for repainting. A 26-year-old A320 registered as N438UA is currently being retrofitted in Melbourne and will be the first A320 with the new cabin.

United will also be introducing new Airbus narrowbody jets to its fleet. The airline has ordered 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft and 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft. A321neo deliveries are scheduled to start later in 2023 and A321XLR deliveries are slated to begin in 2024.

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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