May 19, 2022

United Airlines has announced its plan to offer commercial supersonic flights in 2029. The airline company entered into a deal with Boom Supersonic to buy 15 supersonic jets to carry passengers on ultra-fast commercial planes by 2029.

Boom Supersonic is a privately held upstart aircraft maker based in Denver. Its supersonic plane that the United wants to purchase is called the “Overture.” The build is expected to be completed in 2025, and the test flights to start by 2026. In 2029, it is anticipated to be fully operational and able to service passengers. United has agreed to acquire 15 of the Overture jets, with the option to purchase 35 more.

The supersonic plane will be flying at Mach 1.7, or twice as fast as today’s commercial jets. It will be able to complete a journey from United’s hub in Newark, New Jersey, to London in just three-and-a-half hours. It can cut the flight hours of the Newark to Frankfurt trip to four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo to just six hours.

Boom is also working on a goal for Overture to fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). If the goal is achieved, Overture will be the first aircraft to begin with net-zero carbon flights.

“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,” said United CEO Scott Kirby.

However, air travel experts expressed doubts that there will ever be a way for commercial supersonic flights to be economically viable for airline companies.

“You need to find enough full-fare premium passengers to justify the aircraft. Good luck with that,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group.

“This is the best form of free advertising,” said Aboulafia. “It likely doesn’t cost anything. It gets them free publicity as a forward-looking airline with, bizarrely, a concern about the environment.”

After the economic failure of the Concorde, the airlines and aircraft makers have shifted their focus on the efficiency of flying, not speed.