United Airlines hopes to zoom travelers across the globe in half the time it takes today with an order for new supersonic jets.
But don’t expect to book the sure-to-be pricey flights, à la the Concorde, anytime soon.
The airline on Thursday announced a deal with Denver-based startup Boom Supersonic for 15 of its “Overture” jets and an option for 35 more. The plane hasn’t been built and still requires government approval.
United said it will buy the jets once Overture “meets United’s demand safety, operating and sustainability requirements” and that the two companies will work together to meet those requirements.
Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.
“United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable for that to include supersonic planes,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.”
Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl said in a statement: “United and Boom share a common purpose — to unite the world safely and sustainably. At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations.”
How fast will the Boom Supersonic Overture jet fly?
United said the Overture jet will be able to fly at speed of Mach 1.7, twice the speed of today’s fasted airliners.
That means it can cut flight times on many routes by nearly half.
United cited these as potential routes:
- Newark, New Jersey to London: 3 ½ hours (Current flying time: 6 ½ hours)
- San Francisco to Tokyo: 6 hours (Current flying time: 10 ¼ hours)
- New York to Frankfurt, Germany: 4 hours (Current flying time: 7 hours)
How many seats will United’s new Boom supersonic jets have?
The Overture jets will have 65 to 88 seats depending on an airline’s configuration, Boom said. United didn’t disclose how many seats its Overture jets will have.
United said it’s too early to say how much the flights will cost but spokesperson Rachael Rivas said the plane is designed to have operating costs that are 75% lower than the Concorde. The airline is working with Boom far in advance to make sure the Overture is commercially viable.
High costs and a fatal crash in 2000 were key factors in the demise of The Concorde in 2003.
The Concorde, operated jointly by British Airways and Air France, was the first supersonic jet to fly commercially. It offered up to 100 passengers first-class, albeit cramped, service at twice the speed of sound starting in 1976. It could cross the Atlantic in less than four hours, about half what it took other jetliners at the time.
► Ask the Captain: In search of supersonic flights
Contributing: Bart Jansen