United Airlines and Boeing: A History - United Hub

United Airlines and Boeing: A history

By Benét J. Wilson, October 19, 2017

As United Airlines prepares to bring on the Boeing 777-300ER and retire the 747 from its fleet, we take a look back at the connection between these two companies that goes all the way back to the very beginning of commercial aviation. These are two companies who've been partners in flight for nearly 90 years.

United and Boeing were originally part of one company. The carrier’s predecessor company, Boeing Air Transport, was founded on June 30, 1927, as an airline to operate mail routes.

On October 30, 1928, the Boeing Airplane and Transport Corporation was created to handle both airline and aircraft manufacturing operations. The company’s name was changed on February 1, 1929, to United Aircraft and Transportation Corp., which included Boeing Aircraft of Canada, Northrop Aircraft Corp., Stearman Aircraft Co., Sikorsky Aviation Corp. and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Co.

In March 1931, Boeing Air Transport, National Air Transport, Varney Airlines and Pacific Air Transport combined to form United Air Lines, which offered passenger and mail service from coast to coast. But after an air mail scandal, Congress passed legislation barring aircraft manufacturers from owning airlines. As a result, United Aircraft and Transport Corporation split into its three parts – Boeing, United Aircraft and United Air Lines.

In 1933, United started flying the Boeing 247, a twin turboprop aircraft with technological advances including all-metal construction and one of the first retractable landing gear systems. The aircraft was also able to fly across the country without passengers having to change planes or stop overnight.

By 1947, United’s fleet continued to evolve, first with the Douglas DC-4, and then with the DC-6, which introduced pressurized cabin service for passengers. The DC-6 could also fly coast to coast, only stopping in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the next decade, United’s fleet included DC-6s, DC-7s and Convair CV-240 aircraft.

Meanwhile, Boeing began moving into the jet age in 1952, when it started building the Model 367-80, a four-engine jet that eventually became the 707.

United ended up buying the Douglas DC-8 instead of the 707. It also bought the Caravelle, a shorter-range twinjet made by France’s Sud Aviation, and became the first airline to fly Boeing’s four-engine, shorter-haul 720 jet.

After merging with Capital Airlines in June 1961, United’s fleet underwent more changes, with the addition of the British-built Vickers Viscount mainline turboprop aircraft.

A year later, Boeing rolled out the three-engine 727-100 jet, and United began flying the aircraft in 1964. In April 1965, United placed an order for 66 aircraft and options on another 39 with Boeing, making it the largest commercial order ever made by an airline at the time.

In the same year, Boeing launched the now iconic twin-engine 737. A year after launching the 737, Boeing announced plans to build the nearly 500-seat 747, dubbed the Queen of the Skies. United received its first 747 in August 1970.

In 1978, Boeing began production on both the narrow-body 757 and the wide-body 767. United Airlines was the launch customer for the 767 and it entered the fleet in 1982. Three years later, United bought Pan Am’s Pacific Division for $750 million, which included a fleet of Boeing 747SP and Lockheed L-1011-500 wide-body jets.

On October 29, 1990, Boeing formally moved forward with the 777, with an initial order of 34 airplanes and 34 options by United Airlines. The first 777 was delivered to United on May 17, 1995, and the first flight was from Washington, D.C. to London.

A month later, Boeing’s board authorized production of the Boeing 777-300, and on February 24, 2003, the 777-300ER completed its first flight.

In 2005, the company launched the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and delivered its last 757. On July 8, 2007, the first 787 Dreamliner was rolled out at a celebration attended by 15,000 people at Boeing’s Everett, Washington final assembly factory. In 2009, United announced an order of 50 787 Dreamliners, making it the North American launch customer.

Two years after United and Continental Airlines merged in 2010, the airline took delivery of its first Dreamliner to use on international routes to Africa, Asia and Europe. In April 2015, United ordered 10 Boeing 777-300ERs and unveiled the aircraft type in February 2017 – complete with the new Polaris international business class cabin –to fly between San Francisco and Hong Kong.

The future looks bright for the continued partnership between United and Boeing, with more deliveries scheduled for the 777-300ER, the 737MAX and the 787 Dreamliner. These jets will fuel United’s future growth and ensure that passengers can get to the places they want to go.

Why we fly

By The Hub team, November 27, 2020

In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.

United cargo connects products to people all over the world this holiday season

By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

High-tech electronics – Check.

2.7 million pounds of lobster? Check.


While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

United Cargo plays a big role in transporting shipments with a limited shelf life around the world. Packed in between the latest electronics from Asia and the hottest fashion items from Europe, our aircraft carry a variety of perishable shipments like flowers, fruit, meat and vegetables, where speed and careful handling keeps them fresh. Whether it's cherries from Washington State or vegetables from Peru, our temperature-controlled shipping processes and vast global network helps move these commodities all over the world.

While the holidays are an exceptionally busy time of year for shipping perishable items, United Cargo transports these critical goods for people all over the world year-round. Earlier this year, United Cargo moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to support communities impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, with the holiday season here, we anticipate the cargo holds of our aircraft to be full of grocery store replenishments, including staples like turkey and ham, hitting shelves across the globe.

We take pride in our role to make sure perishables and produce arrive on time and at the peak of freshness. These products sustain, feed and nurture the world, and consumers around the globe depend on them every single day.

Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

10 travel tips for the holiday season

By The Hub team, November 19, 2020

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your holiday travels, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, payments and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check and touch-free onboard payments.

2. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist

Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:

  • Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
  • Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted

3. Get familiar with CleanPlus

United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading* cleanliness, plus putting health and safety at the forefront of your experience, in partnership with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic. We've implemented CleanPlus in a number of ways that you'll notice throughout your trip, as well as with some behind-the-scenes enhancements like:

  • Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
  • Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
  • Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features

Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.

4. Don't forget essential documents

We've made a list of travel requirements and restrictions for every destination that you can check twice, or as often as you need before your trip. Just visit united.com/travelrequirements to get the details on COVID-19 testing, health documents and other things you may need before you fly.

5. Wear your mask

You may not notice our smile behind our face covering, but you can be sure that we're appreciative of all our travelers who arrive to the airport with their mask on, and continue to wear it over their nose and mouth at all times in the airport and on board. Make sure you review our requirements for face coverings, including what an acceptable face covering looks like. Bonus points if your mask infuses some holiday cheer!

6. A better boarding process for your safety

If you haven't flown with us in a while, you might want to get familiar with our new boarding process. To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.

7. Pack smart

Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.

8. Check your flight status, important notices and weather

Check the United app regularly for the latest updates, weather conditions, flight status, gate and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.

9. Arrive early; avoid the stress

Airports can be busy, especially during the holidays. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.

10. Relax and enjoy your flight

Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.

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