United Airlines has announced that it plans to buy 15 supersonic jets that can fly at 1,300 mph and will be able to cut the time it takes to fly from New York to London in half, down to 3.5 hours.
The company has stated that this operation “represents a leap forward in the return of supersonic speeds to aviation.”
The agreement with Boom Supersonic, a company based in Denver, Colorado, involves the purchase of 15 “Overture” aircraft, with the option to purchase possibly another 35 aircraft.
The planes are expected to launch in 2025, take flight in 2026 and begin carrying passengers in 2029.
The last supersonic passenger jet, the Concorde, flew for 27 years, starting in 1976.
The Overture will be able to fly at twice the speed of current passenger aircraft. United Airlines said the planes “can connect more than 500 destinations in almost half the time.”
The company added: “Among United’s many potential future routes are Newark to London in just three and a half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo in just six hours.” Overture will also be designed with features like in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space and contactless technology. ”
United Airlines has said that the Overture will use 100% sustainable fuel and is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft with zero carbon emissions from the first day of flight. But, according to experts, the supply of sustainable aviation fuel, which can be made from waste and plants, is limited, expensive and does not put an end to greenhouse gas emissions.
Boom unveiled a full-scale supersonic aircraft prototype last year. It was the first aircraft of its kind to fly in almost 50 years.
But the company’s plans have been delayed in the past, and to achieve its lofty goals, the company would have to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and regulatory bodies in other countries. Other more established aircraft manufacturers have faltered when it comes to redesigning or launching new versions of their aircraft. The Boeing 737 Max was grounded for almost two years after two accidents.
The flight business is in the process of returning to normal as the world tries to overcome the pandemic. In February, United Airlines announced that it had invested $ 20 million in an electric air taxi company called Archer. United Airlines director of corporate development Michael Leskinen told The New York Times that the company is working on a “steady pace” of similar investments.
“We are very confident about the future,” he told the newspaper. “The aerospace industry takes a long time to innovate. For this reason, if these opportunities are not taken advantage of now, they will have been lost ”.
United and Boom did not disclose the cost of the planes, but Leskinen told The Times that the price should be similar to that of a new Boeing 787. According to the Boeing website, the price of a 787 ranges from $ 248 million to $ 338 million. .
United is committed to purchasing the planes if Boom achieves a number of goals, such as producing the planes, obtaining regulatory approval and meeting sustainability requirements. United has calculated that the Boom jets will be 75% more efficient than the Concorde.
Although United has yet to announce how much a ticket would cost, it is likely to be in the thousands of dollars. Leskinen commented that supersonic flight would be a “really powerful tool for business.”
“You can have a business meeting and still be home for dinner with your family,” he mentioned. But some companies have found during the pandemic that they can be just as effective in meeting with business partners virtually. Business travel could take years to return to what it was before the pandemic.
“The key to the success of supersonic transport is the ignored and underrated corporate travel manager, who is likely relegated to one of the worst offices in his company, and his main task is to minimize corporate spending on business travel,” stated the travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told The New York Times.
He added that if flights cut travel time by a third, but also cost a third more, a corporate travel manager might say, “I don’t know if we can justify it.”