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United renews faith in Boeing 737 Max with large aircraft order

Signaling a belief that air travel is back, the airline says it'll add 270 Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A321neo planes to its fleet.

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Boeing

Just a year after the COVID-19 pandemic sent the air travel industry into a sharp downturn, United Airlines has placed the biggest order for new aircraft in its history. The world's fourth-largest airline announced Tuesday that it would order 270 Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A321neo planes for delivery starting next year.

The order, plus a promise that United would hire 25,000 new employees (after laying off thousands of workers during the pandemic), is both a sign that the airline expects an upswing in travel, but also a massive boost to Boeing's 737 Max airliner. The Max family returned to the skies in November after being grounded worldwide for 20 months over two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed a combined total of 346 people.

"We are truly humbled by United Airlines' confidence in the people of Boeing and the airplanes we design and build every day," Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement. "As we look forward to the recovery ahead, we are honored that United has once again chosen the 737 family's performance, efficiency and flexibility to power their growing network."

Both the 737 Max and A321neo are narrow-body midrange jets that seat between 175 and 210 people. The aircraft promise quieter and cleaner engines and better fuel efficiency (United says the new planes will lower its airline's total carbon emissions per seat by up to 15%).

United said it'll buy 70 A321neos, 50 737 Max 8s, and 150 of the 737 Max 10, which made its first flight only last week. Recent orders for the 737 Max have also come from Southwest, Alaska, Ryanair, Copa Airlines and Virgin Australia,

The airline also touted the passenger cabin amenities of its new planes. They include larger overhead storage bins, electrical outlets at each seat, Wi-Fi that'll be fast enough to stream online video and Bluetooth that'll let passengers connect personal wireless headphones to seat-back entertainment screens. 

In a statement, United's chief commercial officer, Andrew Nocella, said the cabin upgrades are about adding a more consistent passenger experience across its fleet. "[It's a] focus on the amenities that customers value most like seat back screens, fast WiFi and extra storage to further set ourselves apart."