United Airlines replaces Boeing jets with Airbus

The American airline plans to replace an aging fleet of Boeing aircraft with new, medium-range Airbus jets. The agreement between United and Airbus deals another blow to Boeing after its 737 Max controversy.

United Airlines said Wednesday it had ordered 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft to replace an existing fleet of aging Boeing 757-200s jets.

The Chicago-based airline said that the Airbus jets, a long-range version of the European manufacturer’s single-aisle A321neo, are set to be delivered starting in 2024. The deal is estimated to be worth $6.5 billion (€5.9 billion).

United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said the Airbus jets will serve European destinations from east coast hubs in Newark/New York and Washington.

The new Airbus aircraft’s range is 15% higher than that of its predecessor, the A321LR, making it a cost-effective alternative to longer-range wide-body planes. The A321XLR’s fuel tanks allow it to cover 5,400 miles (8,700 kilometers) in nine hours — significantly more than the Boeing 737 Max jet.

News of the agreement between Airbus and United was felt on the stock market as shares in Airbus rose 2% on Wednesday.

Bad news for Boeing

The decision by United is a setback for Boeing. The American manufacturer, also based in Chicago, is reeling from the grounding of its 737 Max jets after two deadly crashes earlier this year.

Boeing has no new aircraft to compete with the Airbus A321XLR in the mid-market range.

United’s international fleet is mainly made up of Boeing models: the 757, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner. The American airline also has 14 Boeing 737 Max planes that were in use before they were grounded.

Read moreUS could increase tariffs after WTO rejects EU denials over Airbus subsidies