Chicago, Illinois - United Airlines is looking for an efficient replacement for the 130 Boeing 757 and 767 jets in its fleet. The carrier wants Boeing to make a clear statement if there will be a new Boeing jet for the middle of market in the foreseeable future.
The aviation industry has been wondering for two years whether Boeing will launch its long-awaited new mid-size airplane program or not.
When Boeing started talks with the major airline operators last year to determine their expectations from its NMA program, the American manufacturer had been set to announce it at the Paris Air Show this year.
But earlier this year, Boeing announced that it delayed final decision for the program to 2020.
In the meantime, Airbus came up with the A321XLR to fill the gap in the middle of market. The European aircraft manufacturer recorded order commitments for 147 A321XLR at the Paris Air Show last month.
Since we don't have much time to make a decision, we would like to know about Boeing's plans about a new mid-size plane, said United's Chief Financial Officer Gerry Laderman.
He did not comment on when United will make its decision for a new aircraft type to replace its aging Boeing 757s and 767s.
Boeing currently has focused on fixing problems that nailed its 737 MAX jets on the ground after two fatal crashes.
At the beginning of June, Boeing displaced the head of the 737 MAX program and named the VP of its NMA program as the new 737 MAX program chief.
This move is a clear sign that the New Mid-Market Airplane (NMA) project is on hold, said analyst Ron Epstein said.
If Epstein is right, Boeing's NMA does not seem to be launched in the near future.
Airbus presents the A321XLR as an efficient alternative to the Boeing 757 and 767, which can also connect smaller cities that have no infrastructure for large jets.
The A321XLR has a flight range of 8,700 kilometers (4697.6 nautical miles) more than any other narrow-body aircraft currently in service.
Boeing has so far tried to keep the major 757 operators in the US away from the Airbus's A321XLR. But American Airlines has already ordered 50 units at the Paris Airshow, which will probably replace 35 Boeing 757-200 in the fleet.
After American, now United is on the edge of separation from Boeing's future mid-size aircraft. The airline currently has 76 Boeing 757 and 54 Boeing 767 aircraft in service.
Another major US carrier Delta Air Lines operates 193 Boeing 757 and 767 in total.