United Airlines said it wants to bring back commercial supersonic air travel, which would mark a first since British Airways retired its Concorde service in 2003. United on Thursday said it has an agreement to purchase 15 supersonic aircraft from startup Boom Supersonic.
Boom, a Denver-based startup, said its Overture supersonic aircraft will be capable of flying between New York and London in 3 hours and 30 minutes, shaving three hours from the typical flight time. United has an option to buy an additional 35 aircraft from Boom, which has raised $240 million in venture capital to develop its plane.
United said the supersonic aircraft is expected to carry passengers by 2029. The Overture plane will be designed to run entirely on sustainable fuel and produce “net-zero” carbon emissions, according to the companies.
The push into supersonic flight comes as United and other airlines seek to rebound from the impact of the pandemic, which shuttered global travel more than a year ago.
“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,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement.
The Concorde, once a byword for sophisticated and pricey transatlantic travel, was retired 18 years ago amid declining passenger revenue and higher maintenance costs for the aging aircraft. Questions over the safety of the pioneering plane also arose after an Air France Concorde jet crashed just outside of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing 113 people.
United didn’t disclose how much it plans to charge for a supersonic flight, but it’s likely to be geared to wealthy travelers. The carrier said the Overture planes will include “in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space and contactless technology.” Boom’s website touts the plane’s all-business-class seating with “an environment curated for comfort.”
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