United encourages Boeing to speed up NMA development

Aviation

United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz wants Boeing to speed up the development of its proposed New Mid-market Airplane.

“Dennis [Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing] and I talk about this all the time – speed up the process, we’re growing, we need aircraft and they make great aircraft,” Munoz told reporters on the sidelines of the US Chamber of Commerce Aviation summit on 7 March. “Having it in a little bit shorter timeframe would be helpful.”

Under the current timeline, Boeing plans to make a decision on launching the NMA programme in 2020 with an entry-into-service in 2025.

Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian also encouraged the Chicago-based airframer to move forward with the programme earlier this week. Speaking at an investor conference, he said the carrier is “very interested” in the NMA and hopeful that Boeing will launch it soon.

Both Delta and United are in search of a replacement for the majority of their Boeing 757 and 767 fleets. The former operates 204 757s and 767s, and the latter 131 aircraft, Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows.

Chicago-based United is in search of a replacement for its long-haul 757-200s – models used on short-haul flights are slated for replacement by Boeing 737 Max 10s – as well as its Boeing 767 fleet over the next decade.

The airline is considering a variety of aircraft in addition to the NMA, including additional Boeing 787s as well as the Airbus A321LR and A330neo programme.

Under Boeing’s current timeline, both United’s 757 and 767 fleets will have an average age of more than 26 years by 2025, Fleets Analyzer data shows. Airlines consider the average useful life of an aircraft to be 25-30 years.

Munoz is mum on what United wants in the NMA, saying only that it will be a combination of fleet replacement and opening new markets. The airline has used the 787, Boeing’s last cleansheet aircraft, to open numerous new markets, including nonstop flights to Singapore from the US mainland and service to the interior Chinese city of Chengdu.

“We want them to launch the right product,” he says. “A lot of us have had a lot of input and conversation into what that might look like.”

Boeing has said the widebody NMA will seat 200-270 passengers with a range of 4,000-5,000nm (7,400-9,300km).

Air Lease chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy said on 6 March that the airframer is likely to offer two NMA models to meet the different carrier requirements.

“Some of the Asian airlines are less interested in range and more interested in a higher capacity version, delivering the most optimal economic performance,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it’s driving towards two different models. Boeing will have to address which comes first.”