United to split 200-jet order between Boeing, Airbus -sources

(Reuters) -United Airlines is in talks to buy around 200 single-aisle jets in a multi-billion dollar conversion that will benefit both Boeing and Airbus, industry sources said.
If confirmed, the deal could include over 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and several dozen larger Airbus A321neo jets, they said, asking not to be identified.
According to Bloomberg News, which first covered the Boeing negotiations, the airline plans to upgrade its fleet at a time when travel in the United States is increasing. That part of the order could include 150 MAX aircraft, it said.
"We currently have no agreement with Boeing or Airbus to purchase new aircraft and we do not comment on speculative aircraft orders," said United spokesman Luke Punzenberger in response to the earlier report.
Boeing and Airbus both said they don't comment on customer conversations.
In March, United ordered 25 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to replace aging jets and meet growing demand after the pandemic.
Bookings for U.S. airlines are expected to rebound this year due to COVID-19 vaccinations and the easing of restrictions after the pandemic caused the industry's worst downturn.
A deal split between the 168-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the roughly 200-seat A321neo would give the aerospace sector a big boost as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.
It would bolster Boeing's premier cash cow, the MAX 8, after a safety grounding, while also fueling a trend towards Airbus at the higher end of the busy single-aisle segment, which threatens to alter the product range in their transatlantic duopoly.
Airbus' A321neo has won a dominant portion of orders in the recently booming large single-aisle segment, prompting Boeing to consider replacing their discontinued 757, which overlaps in size and range with the A321neo.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Tracy Rucinski in Chicago, Radhika Anilkumar and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, adaptation by David Evans and Mark Potter)
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