< Reveal sidebar

To Woo United, Airbus Asks Customers to Delay Aircraft Deliveries

United is "building a plan that doesn't have the MAX 10 in it"

United’s Airbus A321neo (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is asking customers to return some aircraft delivery slots in order to make those slots available to American carrier United Airlines. The company has offered to buy back delivery slots for Airbus A321neo aircraft.

This move comes soon after United announced it is looking for alternatives to the Boeing 737 MAX 10 orders it has on file. The company has been disgruntled with Boeing since the latest 737 MAX grounding; the carrier is concerned that the same quality control issues that caused a door plug to blow out on an Alaska Airlines jet will also be present on MAX 10 airplanes, which also have the same door plug.

“I’m disappointed that the manufacturing challenges do keep happening at Boeing,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “We’re going to at least build a plan that doesn’t have the MAX 10 in it.”

Kirby mentioned in an earlier statement to CNBC that this 737 MAX 9 crisis might be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for United, adding that there is only so much the airline will endure before considering other options. Since 2018, Boeing has been under intense scrutiny from federal regulators and the general public for what are seen to be consistent quality control issues and major failures to communicate with customers.

United says it needs to see “real action” from Boeing in order to restore trust in its aircraft. Boeing’s once-strong reputation for high quality has been damaged since the company merged with McDonnell Douglas.

Airbus’ order book for narrowbody A320 family aircraft stretches on for years. However, the manufacturer already has a foot in the door with United, who has received several A321neo aircraft in the past three months and even has an order pending for A350 family aircraft.

It is unclear how many aircraft Airbus will be able to procure for Boeing with this method, particularly as airlines try to modernize their fleets with more efficient aircraft from a proven design. The Airbus A320 family was launched in 1984, meaning the oldest planes are nearly 40 years old, and airlines trying to cut costs and prove their care for the environment may be reluctant to relinquish orders for new aircraft.

United is also a critically important customer for Boeing. Over 80% of United’s 900+ strong fleet consists of Boeing aircraft. Nearly half of the entire fleet is 737 family aircraft, split across 737 NG and 737 MAX families. United has close to 400 additional orders for 737 MAX 8, 9, and 10 aircraft; the airline is currently slated to be the launch customer for the 737 MAX 10.

A preview of what’s to come on United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 10. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

The FAA is investigating Boeing for these quality control issues that led to the Alaska Airlines door plug issue earlier this month. The regulator is blaming Boeing, not contractor Spirit Aerospace, for Alaska’s plug door failure.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

    View all posts

Subscribe to AirlineGeeks' Daily Check-In

Receive a daily dose of the airline industry's top stories along with market insights right in your inbox.

Related Stories

Cathay Pacific Returns Last COVID-Grounded Aircraft to Service

Cathay Pacific announced the return of its final aircraft that had been parked overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aircraft…

Air Mauritius to Stick With Airbus A350 Widebodies

Air Mauritius CEO, Charles Cartier, said that the airline favors the Airbus A350 aircraft for its widebody operations. Speaking to…

Etihad Stays Nimble With Its Fleet Plan

In a recent interview with aeroTelegraph, Etihad's CEO Antonaldo Neves shared the company’s fleet plan for the next several years.…