United pushes 737-900ER through 500 mark

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Boeing reports an uptick in sales of its largest 737 model, the -900ER, which passed the 500 milestone this week when (according to before and after comparisons of Boeing’s orders and deliveries website) United Airlines converted its 737-700s to the stretched variant.

Development of the extended range -900ER transformed the performance of the longest 737 model which only managed a (by Boeing standards) rather paltry 52 orders in its baseline -900 configuration. By contrast the 737-900ER has so far taken 537 orders from 17 customers – figures that have more than doubled since the start of 2010 says Boeing.

Lion Air, an early supporter of the -900ER, took the 50th off the Renton line. (Joe Walker)

Does this mean the -900ER has finally attained, as Boeing intends, the mantle of 757 replacement? Certainly the round of orders from U.S. trunk carriers like Delta and United would suggest greater acceptance in this role. Boeing says the -900ER can fly 96% of the 757's current routes – but at a much lower operating cost. Compared to the A321-200, its only major rival, Boeing claims 8% lower trip costs and 6% lower per seat-mile costs.

The -900ER still has a long way to go however to come close to the success of its -700 and -800 stablemates. Orders for the -700, not counting BBJ and special versions, stand at 1,342 while the -800 orderbook (again not counting BBJ and other variants) now stands at an astonishing 4,060 – some 1,423 of which are yet to be delivered.

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