United Airlines is considering Boeing’s smallest iteration of its 737 MAX family, the MAX 7, as the eventual replacement for its ageing 737-700 jets.
The possibility was revealed by United chief financial officer Gerry Laderman while speaking at the United hangar at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“The -700s have certain capabilities for hot and high airports that the -800s and -900s don’t,” said Laderman.
“The MAX 7 is similar. United remains a ways from retiring its 737-700s, but when that time comes, the answer might be the MAX 7,” Laderman added.
The Boeing MAX 7 sits about 138 seats in a two-class configuration. United currently operates 37 737-700s, which are between 18 and 24 years old.
It comes just days after United revealed it had placed its largest aircraft order in history, for 270 narrow-bodied jets, spread across both Boeing and Airbus, in a deal worth over US$30 billion.
The deal included 300 Boeing 737 MAX jets – 150 of the not-yet-certified 737-10, the largest variant of the MAX family, as well as 50 classic 737-8 jets.
Laderman emphasised that United’s firm orders with Boeing are flexible, suggesting United could modify its existing orders to include different MAX versions.
“With the [MAX], we’ve always had the ability, with enough notice, to change the model type,” Laderman said.
United plans to begin flying its newly-ordered jets in early 2023.
It already held separate outstanding orders for 180 737 MAX jets and 50 A321neos.
The US carrier now expects to take delivery of 40 new single-aisle jets in 2022, 138 in 2023, and the rest in 2024 and beyond.
Additional reporting by Airlinerwatch.