United Airlines aims to revive Concorde spirit with supersonic planes

United Airlines has bought 15 planes capable of travelling at twice the speed of modern airliners as it aims to bring back supersonic travel 18 years after Concorde’s final flight.

The airline agreed to purchase the Overture aircraft from Boom Supersonic, with the planes able to fly at Mach 1.7 (1,300mph), potentially halving the transatlantic journey from Newark to London to three and a half hours.

Trial flights are scheduled to begin in 2026, with commercial use coming three years later.

United has an option on an additional 35 planes from the Denver-based manufacturer. The initial order will be finalised once the aircraft meet “demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements”.

The Overture will carry fewer passengers than existing subsonic passenger jets, with 65 to 88 seats – less capacity than Concorde – which will initially be priced at business class fares.

Environmental campaigners have criticised the use of supersonic aircraft, which require more fuel per passenger than regular airliners.

But United, which has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, said the Overture was expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to use 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

The airline’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, said: “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.

“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 travellers access to a stellar flight experience.”

Blake Scholl, the chief executive of Boom Supersonic, said: “The world’s first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world.”

The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK and the US Federal Aviation Administration must grant approval for the return of supersonic passenger planes to the skies. And noise pollution campaigners and residents living under flight paths could set themselves in opposition to the plan.

Concorde holds the record for the fastest transatlantic flight by a civilian plane – two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds – between New York and London in 1996. But the airliner was retired from service in 2003, with British Airways and Air France blaming a downturn in passenger numbers and rising maintenance costs.

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