Travel | November 12, 2021 12:14 pm

United’s Plans to Introduce a Supersonic Fleet May Be Closer Than You Think

The airline announced its largest Transatlantic expansion to date, which will include 10 new flights and five new destinations. Here's what that means.

United’s Plans to Introduce a Supersonic Fleet May Be Closer Than You Think
Chris Leipelt/Unsplash

Last month, United announced its largest Transatlantic expansion in the airline’s history. The plan will include 10 new flights and five new destinations —  Jordan, Norway, Portugal, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife, none of which are currently served by any other North American carriers — debuting in spring of 2022. At first glance, it is what would appear to be a strategy to sell more seats. Per a new report from Inc., though, the announcement is potentially indicative of a much more exciting message altogether.

“Below the surface of what appears to be about attracting more passengers, is the fact that it’s a major step towards executing the introduction of supersonic jets, which will change air travel as we know it. Making the transition to shorter flights with faster planes requires a long-term strategy and a multi-stage process. And the pursuit of supersonic speeds is a lesson in patience that every founder could be reminded of,” Kelly Main wrote.

In early June, United made headlines after announcing their intent to be on the forefront of the supersonic revolution with the purchase of 15 of Boom Supersonic’s 88-seat Overture aircrafts, which — at the time — were said to go into production in 2023, with the option to tack on 35 more. With this latest expansion package, it appears the airline truly is putting their money — roughly $8 billion in PPP loans worth of it, in fact — where their mouth is.

This is just the most recent (and largest) step toward United’s end goal, which is to be emission-free by the year 2050. It’s a lofty goal, but introducing Boom’s Concorde-style supersonic feels promising.

According to Inc., with speeds of Mach 1.7, flight times from New York to London will be halved. Similarly, flights from San Francisco to Tokyo will take just six hours, as opposed to the current 10. And in addition to being exceptionally fast, these new aircrafts are also small and extremely lightweight. That said, smaller planes mean less seats, which generally equates to higher airfare (right now, it’s estimated that tickets will sell for around $5,000). But it also means there will need more plans to accommodate demand.

Fortunately, it seems as though United has already thought of that, too, as the new strategy also details plans to create 25,000 unionized jobs by 2026. Eventually, the airline also plans to open routes to Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome, and then later, to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, too. But it all begins here, with this, which — to be fair — feels a lot sooner than probably anticipated.