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Updated January 29th, 2024 at 08:00 IST

United CEO initiates talks with Airbus amid Boeing delays

Reports suggest that Airbus is exploring options to repurchase A321neo positions from the market in anticipation of a potential agreement with United.

Business Desk
United Airlines
United Airlines | Image:Pexels
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United Airlines has reportedly reached out to Airbus regarding the potential purchase of additional A321neo jets, aiming to address potential gaps left by the delayed Boeing 737 MAX 10, according to industry sources.

CEO Scott Kirby recently visited Toulouse to explore the possibility of a deal with Airbus following safety concerns raised by a mid-air emergency involving an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9, further complicating the already delayed MAX 10 certification process.

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"While United Airlines has engaged in discussions with Airbus regarding potential alternatives to the MAX 10 order, no agreement has been finalised to my knowledge," a source familiar with the discussions stated.

Talks are said to be in the early stages, with no assurance of a deal at this point. Airbus and United Airlines declined to provide comments on the matter.

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Kirby's trip to Toulouse marks the latest development in the ongoing crisis surrounding Boeing as the company strives to address concerns over production quality and safety while preventing key orders from unravelling.

The recent partial grounding of the MAX 9 was described by Kirby as the final straw following certification delays for the MAX 10, the largest aircraft in Boeing's troubled MAX series.

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Although United has not officially cancelled any of its 277 MAX 10 orders, Kirby indicated that the aircraft had been removed from internal plans, raising questions about how the airline plans to address the potential gap, particularly as Airbus faces high demand for its A321neo aircraft.

Reports suggest that Airbus is exploring options to repurchase A321neo positions from the market in anticipation of a potential agreement with United.

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Any potential deal between United and Airbus would depend on the availability of the A321neo, which is in high demand, as well as the status of United's contract with Boeing, which is expected to undergo intense discussions.

Boeing, currently grappling with certification timeline uncertainties, has refrained from commenting on commercial negotiations. 

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CEO Stan Deal expressed deep regret for the disruption caused to customers and reaffirmed Boeing's commitment to addressing quality issues.

Amidst these developments, United resumed MAX 9 flights on Saturday. The ongoing discussions highlight the broader challenges facing Boeing and Airbus amid increasing scrutiny of the aviation market duopoly.

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(With Reuters Inputs)

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Published January 29th, 2024 at 08:00 IST

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