Hoping the hoopla about the A321XLR order might bury the news perhaps, United and Airbus quietly admitted that the airline had decided to postpone delivery of its entire A359 order.
With 45 A350-900’s on order United has said that it wants to postpone them for a rather extraordinary 7 years.
This to my mind is pretty much on the point of a cancellation. Nobody has a clue what the global airline market will be in 7 years time, and United is notorious for life extension of outdated aircraft, suggesting its planning on pushing its 772’s to the maximum lifespan. 48 of its 74 772 variants are already over 20 years old – and they won’t be the first to push them to 30 years. British Airways has already made it clear it intends on keeping most of theirs until they’re 30th operational year.
At that rate the rest of the fleet could be around for as long as the late 2030’s. The oldest aircraft is N774UA at 24.9 years, the newest N77022 at 9.4 years old.
There are other advantages too. The A359neo is already being talked about if nowhere near development yet – but a version that fits the Neo specification with GE engines is already on the cards for 2026 – and United could jump on that opportunity through this deferment.