Last month a story was leaked claiming United Airlines will be placing a major order for narrowbody aircraft early next year. Industry analysts predict it will be for up to 200 aircraft in what would equate to a list price deal of approximately $18 billion. The article also notes Boeing and Airbus will be pitted against each other as is a common theme these days, with American Airlines recently splitting their major aircraft acquisition purchase between the two manufacturers.
Today I attended the United Family Day event in San Francisco (full review forthcoming), but feel compelled to post about my conversation with Captain Andy, an A319/320 pilot. While I was waiting for the airplane pull event – groups of about 25 people who literally pull a rope attached to the nosewheel to tug an A320 a designated distance by sheer manpower – I introduced myself to Captain Andy and had a pleasant chat.
I asked him what he thought about the new “rule” that pilots will be required to allow autopilot handle recovery during windshear or significant wind gusts and he replied, “it’s just a suggestion.” He mentioned A319s are easier to land as they don’t float as much as A320s when very close to touchdown. Then he said, “we’ll be ordering A321neos to eventually replace the 757s and they’ll have greater sized winglets than those seen on the A319/A320s.” WOW! That’s big news and he was certainly confident in revealing it.
So, I suppose you could file this under speculation, but as he’s the Chief Pilot in San Francisco I tend to take his word. I further asked, “Do they have the range and fuel capacity needed to replace the 757?” His answer was “yes” and I asked because I recently posted that US Airways was in discussion with Airbus as they were concerned A321s wouldn’t be able to match 757 performance. United must feel confident and Airbus obviously has come through.
Given this conversation, I think we might hear of a firm purchase announcement from United sooner than the new year. Here are a couple of pictures from today’s event to tide you over until I write up a full review.