United Airlines buys 270 new planes and looks to hire 25,000 new employees

Photo (c) Ryan Fletcher - Getty Images

The company sees a resurgence in air travel and wants to get ahead of the curve

United Airlines went on a buying spree on Monday, one that’s expected to lead to 25,000 new hires over the next five years.

"United Next" is what the airline has dubbed its gambit. The plan calls for the addition of 270 Boeing and Airbus Aircraft to its fleet. The purchase agreement is the largest in company history and represents the biggest commitment by a single carrier over the last 10 years.

The company is also retrofitting all of its current “mainline” aircraft to cater to a new customer experience and a new signature interior. By 2026, United passengers will find a dramatic increase in the number of premium seats -- an average of 53 per plane -- larger overhead bins, seatback entertainment in every single seat, and what United says will be the industry's fastest available WiFi.

"Our United Next vision will revolutionize the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel. By adding and upgrading this many aircraft so quickly with our new signature interiors, we'll combine friendly, helpful service with the best experience in the sky, all across our premier global network,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. 

“At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader U.S. economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending and commerce."

Hiring boom on the horizon

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, United was in the middle of furloughing thousands of workers and cutting deals with pilots -- two of the various labor moves it would find itself making before 2020 ended. The company said its aggressive move will require around 25,000 more workers. 

Based on a study from the Federal Aviation Administration, United expects to create more than $30 billion in traveler spending and add an estimated $50 billion to U.S. coffers by 2026.

United added that by replacing its older and smaller mainline jets, it will also upgrade the fleet’s overall fuel efficiency by 11% and lower carbon emissions by between 17-20%.

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