United not shopping for super-jumbo jets


The announcement last week that United Airlines will buy as many as 150 new aircraft in the next 25 years apparently does not mean it will place orders for new super-jumbo jets from either Airbus or Boeing.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told the Chicago Tribune last week United is not looking to buy Airbus’ double-decker A380 planes, which seat more than 450 passengers. Nor are they exploring the redesigned 747-8, a stretched model of Boeing’s mainstay long-range aircraft that seats about 460, and takes some of the design innovations of the 787 Dreamliner.

Instead, the reports indicates United will be looking at smaller aircraft like the Boeing 777-300ER. The fuel-efficient two-engine airliner normally carries seats for about 365 people.

Both Boeing and Airbus are struggling to find US customers for their largest models, and both would likely offer deep discounts on orders placed during a recession. Meanwhile, analysts and financiers worry about how the airline will handle the additional $10 billion in debt. United held $2.5 billion in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, which would cover less than two months of its operating expenses, the Tribune reported.

In an e-mail message Thursday, United Chief Executive Glenn Tilton told employees the carrier would not place an order that puts its financial position at risk.