United Continuing Used-aircraft Spree With Three 767s.jpg Nigel Howarth/AWST

United Continuing Used-aircraft Spree With Three 767s

Widebodies will join more than a dozen second-hand narrowbodies added since 2015.

United Airlines will add three used Boeing 767-300ERs to its fleet in 2018, continuing a trend that has seen it tap the second-hand market to boost its fleet significantly in the past two years.

The 767s are expected to join United's fleet in the second half of 2018. While they are the only used aircraft included in United's latest fleet plan, which envisions adding 24 mainline aircraft in 2018, executives are leaving the door open for more deals.

"I love used airplanes, as many of you know," United CFO Andrew Levy told analysts on a recent earnings call. "There will be many more used aircraft to talk about as time goes on and as we take advantage of the spot market."

United's used-aircraft acquisition spree began in 2015 when It brought in four 737-700s—two via purchase and two on leases, Aviation Week's fleet database shows. In May of that year, it signed a deal to lease up to 25 used Airbus A319s from AerCap, with deliveries slated for 2016-2021. Aviation Week's data shows that 14—all ex-China Southern Airlines aircraft—have been added to United's fleet, including six last quarter.

Besides adding capacity via used aircraft, United has been improving its balance sheet by snapping up aircraft it leases. Last year, it bought 46 aircraft it was operating on leases, Levy said, and has 60 more aircraft with leases expiring in 2018.

"We probably won't buy all 60," Levy said. "It'll depend on the economics of each transaction, but that's a very efficient way to add to the fleet or to keep the fleet instead of buying new airplanes."

United plans to grow its mainline fleet from 744 aircraft on Dec. 31, 2017 to 768 by yearend. Additions include four 777s, seven 787s, 10 737-9s, and the used 767s.

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